Consumer Outlook: In the Effort To Go Green, Where is Our Green Going?

In my previous post, Sustainability: Keeping our Economy in a Green State-of-Mind, I uncovered some uncertainty facing the economy with regard to green marketing. Through my discussion I revealed that even though budget cuts are going to be made, green marketing is here to stay. And despite new obstacles, marketers are innovative and are constantly faced with challenges that they must overcome. Given the various ways that different companies are overcoming this economic struggle, I would like to further my discussion about the world of consumerism. How are consumers responding to these branding and marketing tactics? Consumers may be more inclined to purchase a product they already want, especially if it is marketed as environmentally friendly. But what about when it comes to donations, or adding the extra money or time, are the results as high as we would hope? I came across the very informative blog by author Christianna Mccausland. Her entry is titled "For Consumers, More Incentives to go Green". McCausland talks about how Expedia.com has recently incorporated the option for fliers to pay $25 to reduce the carbon offset caused by their flight. I found this blog particularly interesting because the author touches on the point that the market is still unregulated. Which is true, and one of the main reasons people are still skeptical when it comes to cause-marketing. When it comes to donating any sum of money to a charity or cause, the consumer wants to know where their contribution is going and how exactly it is bettering the given cause. In further exploration of the topic of consumer responses, I found a very interesting blog titled "It Ain't Easy Being a Green Marketer"by Chris Baskind. There is an interesting discussion on whether or not the green marketing bubble is ready to pop. This again relates back to the consumer and how willing people are to buy into green marketing.

"For Consumers, More Incentives to go Green"

This is a very well crafted and organized entry. I find your arguments both informative and intriguing. I find it very interesting that Expedia, and not individual airline companies has decided to offer a green option. In their partnership with TerraPass, the consumer can only assume that this small extra fee makes their travels more eco-friendly. Your point about the unregulated market is very well presented and well substantiated. No consumer is to truly know where their contributions are going, expecially when going through a third agent;in this case Expedia. The tricky part about cause-marketing is that consumers are naturally skeptical as it is. So when marketers add extra fees and costs, then say it is going towards a "good cause", skepticism tends to rise and consumers are less likely to fork up the dough. You quote, "it’s hard to track how many of these programs exist, how many customers are participating, and the effectiveness of the programs". I agree with this statement and can only add that this is exactly the reason consumers have doubt. If not every flier is required to pay this extra fee, what is the true reward for the ones that do? Peace of mind? Peace of mind that they don't really know where their dollars are going? I find comfort that you end on the point by Thomas Lyon, "there are a lot of good-hearted people out there who want to do the right thing, and they haven’t known how to do it, so companies are making it easier for them". People inherently want to do the right thing; people want to help out. With more regulation and standards on their way, green marketing will eventually find a place that is comfortable for the consumer to whole-heartedly buy into. I do have a couple of question that may spike your interest. Do you think it is economically fair to make everyone pay an extra five dollars for their flight that will contribute towards carbon off-setting? Expedia could also keep the twenty-five dollar donation for those who could afford it. Furthermore do you foresee an individual airline making all of their flights green? Again, great post and I look forward to hearing more developments.

"It Ain't Easy Being a Green Marketer"

This is a very interesting post that prompts discussion on green marketing. As far as the green marketing bubble goes, I do not think that it is ready to pop. I agree with your statement, "what consumers say and how they behave aren’t always the same". This is especially true when it comes to low involvement product categories, like toilet paper. When it comes to products such as these, consumers tend to go with brand recognition. With this idea in mind, emerging toilet paper brands who deem themselves as "green", will not compete with well recognized brands like Charmin. With regard to the idea of green-washing I feel that competition will hopefully get so high that the companies who cannot legitimize their claims will be naturally weeded out. Since so many companies are making claims for their products going green, consumers will seek out those products and brands that can back up their marketing statements. Regulation on green marketing assertions could also be more stiff. Furthermore, companies making the claims that their products are green could offer consumers some sort of proof of this. Consumers need to see what their dollar is being spent on. If a brand or company can make the claim that dollars being spent on their products are helping the environment, consumers deserve to see more results. With regard to your commentary on Whole Foods, I think in the state of the economy a high priced specialty store like whole foods is bound to take a hit. Right now, marketers need to focus on making products people will already buy more eco-friendly. Not the other way around. If marketers continue to do this, I do not think the green marketing bubble will pop.


Sustainability: Keeping Our Economy in a Green State-of-Mind.

In a time when our country is in an environmental and economical crisis, the popular campaign of “going green” is seeming every marketers dream. Seeing that our planet encompasses all consumers in every possible market, marketers can use the idea of “going green” to appeal to everyone. Thus, it is no surprise the idea of green seems to be everywhere: Fashion, beauty products, cars, computers, even food products. We have turned the earth, or the idea of it, into a commodity; and it sells. However, the obstacle arises with every marketing campaign or branding technique of sustainability, and keeping the consumer interested. And with the declining state of our economy, even the most creative marketers are going to have to find an innovative way to reach consumers.

With companies and organizations reducing their budgets, there is speculation about what will and what
will not survive the cut. Chief Marketing Officers (CMO’s) are expecting that due to the state of the economy, there will be less-emphasis placed on green-marketing over the next year, according to a study conducted by Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business. The survey asked CMO's from leading companies and organizations their opinions of the current marketplace in order to “predict the future of markets, track marketing excellence, and improve the value of marketing in firms and in society.” The results are bitter for the world of cause-marketing. Based on the responses from 72 Fortune 1000 companies and Forbes Top 200 small businesses, cause-marketing was ranked at the bottom of five priorities for the upcoming year. Marketers are more pessimistic with the state of the business world and want to focus their money and resources on more promising ways to reach consumers. If consumers do not have money to buy essentials, it is reasonable to assume they will not buy products merely to support a cause.

Nevertheless, there remain marketers that keep green-marketing a budget priority. This is partly because consumers with enough disposable income are going to continue to buy products from brands they are loyal to. Steve Jobs, CEO and co-founder of Apple, undoubtedly one of the leaders in creative marketing, has gone to many efforts to market Apple as a greener company. Apple has redesigned many of their products in order to re-market and position themselves as a more environmentally friendly brand. Among the most recent efforts, Apple has released the new “cleanest ipod” (See above right). The latest version of the ipod is made with less toxins and has a “highly recyclable aluminum enclosure”. The Apple brand serves as an example for marketers and has proven time and again to have strong brand loyalty. Consumers who purchase Apple products tend to have a very strong felt connection and association between the brand and themselves. We have undergone a cultural shift towards a greener society, therefore with the addition of cleaner and more eco-friendly attributes to their products, consumers have more positive feelings towards the brand. These affirming feelings then parallel a positive association for owning the product. This not only keeps the brand equity, it revamps Apple’s products to keep arouse new interest, as well as boosts the corporate social responsibilityof their company.

While Apple has taken the approach of incorporating more eco-friendly attributes into the production and manufacturing of their products, brands such as Clorox have attempted to buy sustainability. Clorox has received much scrutiny from Greenpeace in the past, however, Clorox has added the new product line of Greenworks, which uses 99% natural ingredients, as well as purchased the Burt’s Bees brand, in hopes of increasing positive attitudes felt towards the overall brand. Carter Elenz, the executive Vice President of sales and marketing says that as a company they are “still thinking [this market] is expandable” for themselves “and others”. He also makes a strong argument with that, noting that the brand has increased it’s expenditures the highest level it has ever been, and their sales have increased more than 50% in the past year. Bill Morrissey, Vice President of Environmental Stability says that "Clorox is committed to its own journey of environmental stability". From a marketing perspective Clorox has made inventive attempts to reshape their image and to integrate new ideas and brands into their overall business model.

Overall, whether a company is repositioning their brand as greener or simply buying out already green brands for a more positive company image, green marketing takes a tremendous amount of creativity. Kindley Walsh Lawlor, Gap's (umbrella brand to Old Navy and Banana Republic) director of strategic planning and environmental affairs notes that when using green marketing to re brand, “it’s more of when it’s right for us as a company and when it’s right for the consumers.” Smart marketers have a knack for doing the right thing, at the right time, and targeting the right people. Companies who succeeded in sustainability must use this combination when it comes to green marketing. The consumer not only buys the product, they buy into marketing campaigns and it is essential to keep that at the forefront when creating a sustainable green marketing campaign. Lawlor, among other keynote speakers at the Branding for Sustainability (see above left) workshops, help companies and organizations find the right mix of branding, marketing, green initiatives, and corporate social responsibility to create a sustainable brand.

While this study offers an interesting perspective into what is to come in the next year, we cannot reject that we have undergone a cultural shift towards a greener economy which will continue to effect marketing tactics. While we are experiencing a tighter budget in many facets of life, which will of-course take a toll on marketing strategies, but will not end the age of green. Chief Marketing Strategist Bob Gilbreath argues that cause-marketing “ is still what will get the news” for marketers.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License.