Wed, November 07 2007

How Consumers Think Green

Katya Andresen's avatar

Author, Robin Hood Marketing

Filed under:   Cause-related marketing •

I don’t put a lot of stock in focus group research - so often we ask the wrong questions (like, “what would get you to support our issue?”) and so often we get the wrong answers (what people think they should say).  I’ve always been intrigued by ethnographic research, where you actually watch and witness consumers in their element, making decisions.  A tax preparation software company once told me how they sent researchers to hang out for hours in people’s houses, watching them prepare their taxes amid the chaos of their daily lives - searching for lost receipts, sitting at the computer with a cat in their lap, getting confused by certain steps.  They learned an awful lot, which doubtlessly led to a better product.

I want to call your attention to some fantastic ethnographic research about just how consumers react to “green” products and claims, courtesy of my friends at BBMG and partners Global Strategy Group and Bagatto.  You can watch consumers literally think out loud on this page, and it’s fascinating.

What you’ll see are a group of very sophisticated consumers, which should come as no surprise if you’re a savvy marketer.  Consumers know full well that corporations are jumping on the green, healthy, politically correct bandwagon in droves and with varying degrees of true commitment.  They will scrutinize corporate claims and actions.  If you’re a company that claims to be “good,” you’d better follow through fully.

I think the same goes for charities—saying something is true is not enough.  You have to show it.  Prove your need and impact by regularly reporting on what donor money did and put a human face to your results… or else.

Authenticity, transparency and tangible results are absolutely essential for all organizations today.

BBMG’s Conscious Consumer report found all this, and more:

Most consumers (9 in 10) self-identify as “conscious consumers.”

They value health and safety, honesty, convenience, relationships and doing good.

Health and Safety. Conscious consumers seek natural, organic and unmodified products that meet their essential health and nutrition needs. They avoid chemicals or pesticides that can harm their health or the planet. They are looking for standards and safeguards to ensure the quality of the products they consume.

Honesty. Conscious consumers insist that companies reliably and accurately detail product features and benefits. They will reward companies that are honest about processes and practices, authentic about products and accountable for their impact on the environment and larger society. Making unsubstantiated green claims or over promising benefits risks breeding cynicism and distrust.

Convenience. Faced with increasing constraints on their time and household budgets, conscious consumers are practical about purchasing decisions, balancing price with needs and desires and demanding quality. These consumers want to do what’s easy, what’s essential for getting by and make decisions that fit their lifestyles and budget.

Relationships. Who made it? Where does it come from? Am I getting back what I put into it? These consumers want more meaningful relationships with the brands in their lives. They seek out opportunities to support the local economy when given the chance, want to know the source of the products they buy and desire more personal interactions when doing business.

Doing Good. Finally, conscious consumers are concerned about the world and want to do their part to make it a better place. From seeking out environmentally friendly products to rewarding companies’ fair trade and labor practices, they are making purchasing choices that can help others. These consumers want to make a difference, and they want brands to do the same.

And, of course, personal is paramount (as always): 

The most pressing issues by far are those that most directly affect consumers – safe drinking water (90%), clean air (86%) and cures for diseases like cancer, AIDS and Alzheimer’s (84%). By comparison, only 63% of those surveyed described the more abstract issue of global warming as an important issue.

Finally, people are willing to do be “conscious consumers” in these areas, BUT they need us to make it easy for them.  Remember how I’m always babbling about making it easy as possible for people to take action?  Well, this research backs that up:

Consumers willingly engage in “easy” behaviors, such as recycling cans, bottles and newspapers (55% always) and using energy efficient appliances (46% always), but they often fail to adopt a plethora of more “demanding” behaviors like using public transportation, carpooling or purchasing carbon offsets.

Don’t forget - keep that call to action simple and easy.  You can build to bigger actions later.  Start with baby steps now.  But don’t treat the consumer like a baby.  They are clearly smarter than that.

Thanks BBMG for reminding us of that valuable lesson.

  • Comment: (2)   


The paper, like many news organizations, has often been accused of giving too little or too much coverage to various events for reasons not related to objective journalism.

Posted by scarpe da lavoro  on  03/04  at  05:23 PM

People are starting to become more exigent when it comes to they eating regimes. They are right to do so, we can’t trust everything we eat today, we need to be aware of the risks involved. I am totally for “conscious consumers”

Posted by Multi-dophilus plus  on  04/17  at  05:22 PM

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