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.

1 comment:

Katie Webb said...

As the “trend” factor of the green movement continues to grow, and more and more everyday consumers begin to actively seek out environmentally-friendly products, the risk for deceit and perhaps even fraud on behalf of the many companies that claim to be eco-minded grows as well. Before reading your post and the blog entries you link to, I never stopped to think about the need for strict regulation when it comes to marketing products and services as “green.” Clearly, however, in these difficult economic and environmental times, consumer and activists alike would benefit from increased regulation. Perhaps one day we’ll even have a government-run agency akin to the Food and Drug Administration to oversee the labeling and categorizing of eco-friendly products.

I found both of your comments to be thoughtful and insightful contributions to the respective blogs upon which you posted. The Expedia policy is an interesting one (that I had not heard of before), and it seems to me that the success—or failure—of this initiative might determine the amount of similar companies we see following suit and enacting their own environmentally conscious programs. I too am interested in the answers to the questions you posed at the end of your comment, particularly whether the bloggers such as McCausland think that the public now has a moral obligation to pay for carbon off-setting when booking a flight.

In regards to your second comment, I think your point of marketers having to focus on making products people already buy more eco-friendly is an especially valid one in this economy. As I already stated, I also agree more regulation is needed so that companies cannot make empty claims of environmentalism. I would have liked to hear your opinion on how specifically this can be done. In particular, who should be appointed to draw up regulation? The federal government? An environmental activism organization? Consumer advocacy groups? Overall, this post struck me as interesting and informative. I look forward to reading more about your thoughts on green marketing in the future!

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