You might wonder why eco-friendly products and services have become so fashionable and prevalent in our modern consumer society. Is it because of innovations and advances that have made these items more available or affordable to the public? While this is certainly part of the equation, the truth of the matter is that supply without demand is nothing but a waste of money, so until there is a market for certain goods, it is unlikely that they will be mass produced. And yet, there are certainly more green products and services out there than ever before. Why? It is because people have become more aware, not only of the environmental problems facing our planet, but also of the sustainable solutions available to them. And this awareness has stemmed in large part from green marketing efforts.
According to Jacqueline Ottman in her audio book ‘The New Rules of Green Marketing: Strategies, Tools, and Inspiration for Sustainable Branding’, the shift in consumer sensibilities concerning environmentally-friendly products is due in large part to a change in the way companies market their products, their services, and themselves. Products that have been around since the 1970s have gained incredible popularity in the last decade or so not because they are better or because people need them more (although arguments could be made for both positions). It is because marketers have dramatically altered their approach to advertising and selling these goods.
For example, the draw for making eco-friendly purchases like solar panels or alternative-fuel vehicles used to revolve around a certain devotion to keeping the Earth clean and green. But the majority of consumers are motivated by their own wants and needs rather than those of the terra firma. Once marketers realized that they were selling the wrong solutions, they reevaluated their strategy in order to make green brands more appealing to the average consumer. Solar panels don’t sell because their efficiency leads to less pollution; they sell because they save people money on their utility bills. The eco-friendly aspect is certainly a bonus, but it’s rarely the only reason people buy.
Ottman stresses that “green guilt” simply isn’t enough incentive for people to make sustainable purchases. The average adult has other, more immediate worries, and spending more just for eco-friendly goods and services is not a priority for most. There is definitely a niche group that is committed to doing more for the environment with every purchase, but green brands that want to survive must appeal to a larger demographic. And when household names like Nike, GE, Starbucks, and more start to sell sustainable, you know the strategy is working. So how can you implement these changes in marketing on behalf of your own business?
To begin with, you can’t greenwash your company. If you’re going to go paperless, check out options like online banking and an email fax comparison chart. If you want to tout cleaner operations, do an annual waste assessment and find ways to cut pollution and waste. Set up a recycling program. Let workers telecommute. Install solar panels. Use recycled materials and packing. Creating an eco-friendly brand image starts with taking steps to reduce your carbon footprint, whether that means cleaning up your operations or adding green products and services to your lineup. Either way, you can’t expect consumers to buy just because you’re green. You need to offer added value through better health, greater convenience, more affordable pricing and so on. Then you need to market accordingly, and “The New Rules of Green Marketing’ can help.