Last week, we posted here “Get Personal %$#&*!” about how green needs to go from the planetary to the personal to have a real impact. Well, boy did it get personal. We had such a rich conversation on a Linkedin Group called “Women Growing Green Business” that we decided to post the whole conversation here. All of the commenters are women. And since women make two thirds of the green purchases and write 80% of the personal checks, you’re going to want to read every word. There are some real jewels here, green marketers.
Now let me introduce our illustrious commenter cast.
JACQUELYN OTTMAN: Green Marketing Consultant and Author, Green Marketing: Opportunity for Innovation
WENDY COBRDA: Data Diviner and President & Founder of Earthsense, Green Market Research
DIDI LEMAY: Children’s Book Author
HOLLY CAUGHRON: President of Green Rising, Marketing for the Eco-Minded
ANNE MICHELSEN: Green sales writer and co-owner of solar and energy efficiency company Performance Energy, Inc.
And the conversation begins here…
ME: Sorry to sound like a broken record but here we go again. If green is going to have any real impact, you got to make it about me. Bring your message down to earth. Make it personal. I don’t eat organic pizza to save the planet. I eat it because it tastes better. I don’t wear eco anything because of a melting iceberg. I wear it because it feels better and I look great in it. But don’t believe me. This week in Joel Makower’s blog post “Me First, Planet Later” he reported: http://tinyurl.com/y4fqgtk
ME: Thanks DiDi! More Prius’ were sold when gas hit $4 a gallon than ever before. And when gas prices went down, so did their sales. But price isn’t the only motivator but it’s a biggy. For us green marketers out there, our job is to create compelling messaging that brings it all down to earth. More personal. Less planetary. That will help move the needle on green more effectively across the board.
WENDY COBRDA: My colleagues & I have been talking about this for the past 3 years. We call it eco-hedonism, and I don’t think it’s a bad thing. While the word hedonist has some bad connotations, anyone studying human behavior knows that we naturally are drawn to things that give us pleasure and pull away from things that cause us pain.
I’ve just finished penning an article about the concept of LOHOE — the equally important complement to LOHAS. Instead of Lifestyles of Health & Sustainability — the great majority of people are motivated by Lifestyles of Hedonics and Economics, doing things that bring them pleasure and those actions are shaped in many ways by their means or economics.
For example, for the longest time, I’ve been a fan of Muir Glen fire-roasted canned tomatoes. While I’m not a gourmand by any stretch, I do enjoy cooking, and even more so when what I cook brings smiles of pleasure. On a whim, I tried those tomatoes and for years now, that’s all I buy (unless I can’t get them!) Why? Because they taste good. I appreciate that they are organic, I like the mission of the company, but I come back time after time because I like how they taste. The fact that I’m motivated by taste shouldn’t mar my eco-friendly choice.
I bought a clean diesel (VW TDI SportsWagen) last year. Why did I choose that vehicle over the Prius? I love the VROOM I get when I drive. It feels good to shift, it feels great to fill up less than once a week, and it doesn’t hurt that I get to park in the Carousel Mall’s “green only” parking spots close to the entrances. And, yes, it’s better for the planet, and that makes me feel good, too.
I think the days of holier than thou preaching about green are over. It is the manufacturer’s job to make better products that people will want to own and use. We have to stop making it hard for consumers to do the right thing.
Does that make sense?
DIDI LEMAY: Wendy, you talk about pulling away from things that causes us pain. For that reason, we clean the buildings we manage with chemical free cleaners. I have a condition called Multiple Chemical Sensitivities. I’m actually the “canary in the mine” because if there are any chemicals around, I get an attack where my throat swells up and I can’t breathe. (I’ve been to the hospital many times because of cleaners, perfumes and cigarette smoke)
Here we are keeping more chemicals out of the environment and keeping me healthy. Talk about doing things for the environment with me in mind!
WENDY COBRDA: DiDi, you are so right. It makes total sense that you would seek out products that don’t cause you pain — and that avoidance of pain is the first thing that you are thinking of. You make me think of my DH who has a severe mold allergy. When we went house hunting he would know within a few minutes of stepping inside the home whether or not we could nest there. The nose, knows!
Speaking more about pain, my sister’s son was allergic (as in epi-pen carrying!) to milk and soy. He drank Rice Dream and Almond Breeze. Both are eco-friendly choices made to avoid the pain of death by milk proteins.
that she loved her milk so much that she decided to start drinking it again. Some people just can’t be helped.
ME: I love all the comments here. This is a juicy topic. One that deserves the light of day. Thank you women for speaking up!
JACQUELYN OTTMAN: Carolyn, as you may know I have been saying this very same thing since my first book, Green Marketing, came out in 1993. It is so fundamental — and needs so much reinforcing, that I continue to publish on this topic; my latest on this just came out in Triple Pundit last week and more will be included in my latest book, due out this Fall.
I disagree that Joel Makower is talking about this same thing in the blog you quoted. He is saying, in essence, that consumers are out for themselves and don’t care about the planet or they would be buying more. What I believe is that people do care about the planet — that is evident– but when they go into supermarkets and put on their “shopper hats” they have to make sure that the products they buy satisfy their primary reasons for buying the products in the first place —getting clothes clean, buying nutritious and tasty food, etc. This is even more important in a recession when consumers need to ensure they are getting value for their money.
This doesn’t mean that they don’t care about the planet. For the entire 20 years that I have been tracking green marketing, environmental, and increasingly social, benefits have played an important secondary role in influencing purchases. (One of my colleagues coined the phrase, “The tie goes to the dolphin”.) Green then is the added source of value that can break a tie at the shelf. But, when truly integrated into the value proposition, green can enhance primary benefits —the organic produce that tastes better. That is true green marketing heaven!
Delighted to be part of this fruitful dialogue you started. Love to hear what others think about this.
HOLLY CAUGHRON: Know your customer…ALWAYS! There is a spectrum of the green buyer from Dark Green … to anything BUT green! Some people feel threatened by the environmental message and you have to reach them through the value points. Because in the end, who wants to buy a product that’s inferior, even if it does help a good cause. Environmental businesses need to step up, keep improving and realize they have to actually provide a good/better product…luckily, I think they’re doing this beautifully.
…now all they have to do is market it properly!
ANNE MICHELSEN: What a great discussion! Jacquie, I think you’re right that people do have some concern about the environment. But I think the average person just doesn’t truly understand – doesn’t really grok in their gut -
a) just how messed up the planet is right now,
b) how incredibly intricate, complex and sensitive environmental systems (or human biology, for that matter) really are, and thus
c) how their own actions as individuals as well as the actions of governments and corporations really do make a difference, and
d) how what happens on a planetary, regional or local environmental level really does impact them personally.
To truly understand all this stuff (and I’m not pretending I do, either) requires some incredibly in-depth and abstract thought, and/or a high level of intuition. I think a lot of people either can’t or don’t want to go there. Maybe it’s too abstract or complicated. Or for some people it’s too disturbing. I see this a lot because my husband is very environmentally outspoken. Once he’s gotten someone to realize exactly how serious and complicated a particular environmental issue is, they typically get this look of comprehension and fear on their face and then back away and change the subject. Don’t want to go there. Easier to just keep taking out the recycling and feel good about doing one’s green deed for the day.
Y’all are so right, of course. Approaching people with what’s-in-it-for-them messaging not only hits them in their sweet spot, it simplifies the message and cuts out the confusion and uneasiness. When “the planet” is tacked on as an added bonus it becomes a simple – and excellent – justification for a decision already made.
WENDY COBRDA: The problem, I think, is that for those who take environmentalism very seriously, it seems almost blasphemous to concede that doing something for the wrong reason isn’t as virtuous as doing it for the “right” reason. Does intent have to match behavior for it to count? That is the heart of the question!
ANNE MICHELSEN: Guess it depends how cool you think you have to be! Seriously, the cool thing is when even people who don’t have a clue how incredibly hip it is to be eco-aware start walking the walk just because it’s THE THING TO DO!
WENDY COBRDA: Ah…. making green colorless…that should be our ultimate goal. To make sustainable practices part of how we live. Not something just for the enlightened, educated and elite. To build everything from the ground up with the end in mind. That IS cool.
In a practical sense, I should not have to think about where the coffee is grown or by whom and what the cup is made of when I stop in Starbucks. I shouldn’t have to wonder if I’m buying a green version or not. (Of course, I could live on a mountain and grow my own coffee and drink it out of a reusable hand-carved coconut shell…. but this is real life, not fantasy.) But I digress.
Ultimately, I agree with you Anne, that it is very cool when it becomes part of our culture to do the right thing and for a new standard to emerge. As much as we need the eco-terrorists to jolt us out of our complacency, we need the eco-enthusiasts to celebrate our successes and to help make the message of sustainability part of how we simply do business.
Unfortunately, we’re not there yet. My interpretation of Joel’s post is that he sees what we do: most people (not the enlightened green) are simply trying to get through the everyday challenges of life and that is their main focus. You don’t need a fancy study or a high-priced consultant to tell you what you should know from observation. When people are worried about the basics, food, shelter, clothing, education, health — things that are not immediate threats hold less power over their actions. Getting through the financial crisis is first and foremost — the planet is surviving pretty well on its own thank you very much.
That sounds so cynical, but it is how people really feel.
Personally, the more educated I become about the issues, the more I want to actively seek out solutions that help me live my life — better. (And yeah, I did drink the green Kool-Aid — I believe that ultimately green is better.) But I understand how people who do not have the luxury of time to research or means to swap out to greener choices can be focused on alternative goals (eg. daily life survival!)
Jacqui’s work has always focused on benefits first, planet second. It is a message that needs to be repeated over and over…until we people can’t imagine why anyone would need to comment on it again.
Carolyn, great discussion! Thanks for starting it. What do you think?
JACQUELYN OTTMAN: Green is too complex? Purchase for this reason or that reason? The right reason or the wrong reason? People are just trying to make it through the day? Great points! Address them all by integrating green into all products so consumers don’t have to think about it. I always thought the ultimate “green marketing” simply snuck (sneaked?) green right past the consumer. Begs the question whether the markets—or the government should be the ultimate arbiters.
ME: I am delighted to see so many comments. Did we hit a nerve or what? Personally I think the word “green” will be obsolete in a few years. It will just be the way it is. It started with “cause” and went to “because” and we’re heading to just “be”. Get what I mean?
JACQUELYN OTTMAN: Carolyn, if not “green” then what? Needs to be simple, memorable — and easily replaceable. What a fruitful discussion. Wonderful speaking with you all, some for the first time. So how do we get from “because” to just “be”? Will it just happen that way? Remember in the past there were entire ad agencies just focused on marketing to women!
ME: So the question on the table is: How do we get from “because” to just “be”? Personally I think it will happen all by itself. It already is. Green will just be the way it is. State and Federal mandates. Regulations. LEED certified will just “be” the way buildings are built. Then we won’t be calling it green anymore. OK, marketers and biz owners, Jacqui asked: If not “green” then what? We’re making history here.
Please join in our conversation! What do you think?