It’s amazing to see what has taken hold across our country. Average people regularly vote against their own interests and now it seems they increasingly purchase against their own interests as well. Especially where the green world is concerned.
Stand in the checkout line of your average American supermarket and you’ll see what I mean. Judging by what consumers continue to buy and not buy, eatists far outnumber and outweigh supposed green elitists by record numbers. Green products continue to retreat according to recent studies reported by Carol Pierson Holding in a recent post.
She quotes an Ogilvy Earth study that shows that while Americans have good intentions, their purchasing patterns show where good intentions lead.
I can sight the economy as a cause, which is obvious, and the granola aura, which is obvious as well, but I think there is another factor which most have not thought about and that’s the general feeling of depression that has settled in. When people think their own lives are not going to get better, why would they bother pursuing products that are better? When they think their own lives are compromised, then needs of the planet pale in comparison.
Of course, as we have written countless times, many green marketers have blown it from the beginning. All the “saving the planet” and none of the saving yourself is certainly at the root of much of the reported failure. Poor labeling, and even worse, poor messaging is really the root cause.
Global warming gets scoffed at every time it snows, but imagine the traction it might have gotten had it been labeled climate change or ever better, weather disruption from the start. Imagine the power that label would have had during this year’s record flooding, tornadoes and forest fires.
Wouldn’t a focus on healthier, safer food, especially after the record numbers of e-coli incidents jogged people into purchasing more carefully, and caring about what their families were eating? Wouldn’t the physical evidence of increases in Diabetes and the astounding increases in obesity be proof that Americans better change their living and buying habits? I think its undeniable. Sadly, none of these important issues were the focus of green products.
The first thing I learned as a young copywriter was to examine the facts, lay out the advantages, and have a strategy that created a compelling case for what you were selling. The marketing pioneers I was so lucky to work for knew you could be educational and still be entertaining. They insisted that we say something relevant first and then say it in a clever way.
We could have had a lot of fun with the Nissan Leaf and why you should love it and want it. Not why a polar bear should. That execution would have been labeled “borrowed interest” — a device you use when there’s nothing innately advantageous about the product you are promoting. In this age of gas pump sticker shock, I venture to say there’s plenty of fuel to launch a meaningful campaign.
When a client of ours who makes environmental paint products for children’s rooms wanted to promote their line, we told mothers that there “really was a monster in their kid’s room” and it wasn’t under the bed, or in the closet, but on the walls. We changed buying habits and made their paint a hit. We weren’t saving the planet one nursery at a time, we were appealing to motherly instincts that said protect your child from toxic pollution.
Suddenly the extra two dollars a gallon paled in comparison to the health of their family. That”s what we call the “The RELEVANT in the room”.
The other point Ms. Holding made in her post was that green is perceived to be feminine, as though that were a problem. It’s not because women make 85% of all the purchases in America. My suggestion: Make your green communication appeal to women. They’re the ones whose DNA is programmed to protect the health and welfare of the family. They’re the ones who go shopping. They’re the ones who sign the majority of checks.
Personally, if the green world fails or slips back to where it began, it will be a sad day for all of us. Not just us greenies. And that will lead to further deregulation of safety standards and encourage polluters to keep on going because it will make them think no one really cares.
Is it too late? I don’t think so. Here at Mind Over Markets, we’ve seen the battle can be won but it ain’t gonna be “Kermit” or icecaps or polar bears who are going to win it. It’s going to be intelligence and appealing to consumers self-interest.
Most marketers are slow to get it. They still believe the only demographic worth pursuing are 18-24 year olds, even though the concentration of wealth and purchase power is much much older.
In that spirit, we say it’s not that green can’t sell, it’s just been sold from the wrong point of view. When you make green important to my life and my needs, then you are talking to me. When polar bears get their own credit cards and make their own purchase decisions, then we can talk about it again.
What do you think?
– Irv Weinberg