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How Can You Market Green Products and Services to Today’s Consumers?

April 12th, 2012 ::

By Maria Valdez Haubrich

Consumers still care about buying environmentally friendly products and services, but they’re skeptical about companies’ environmental claims and reluctant to spend money on green products in today’s tight economy. The 2012 Cone Green Gap Trend Tracker found that just 44 percent of respondents think companies are telling the truth when they make green claims—and 77 percent are willing to boycott companies that mislead them.

Here’s more of what Cone found and how it affects your marketing message.

Consumers need a lot of help understanding green claims. Nearly three-fourths said they’d like companies to provide more information on the packaging to help them make product decisions. And 71 percent said they need help better understanding the environmental terms companies use to describe their products and services.

What marketing messages make a difference in influencing customers to buy green? Consumers want facts and details. Symbols or certifications were cited by 80 percent, and specific data or outcomes by 80 percent. Seventy-three percent said general environmental statements, such as “uses less water,” influenced their decisions.

Understandably, the economic crisis of the last few years has had an effect on consumers’ commitment to purchasing green. Although 69 percent of American consumers routinely or sometimes consider the environment when making a purchasing decision, 42 percent say they have been discouraged from buying a green product because they believed it cost more than the traditional product. Here are some other reasons consumers don’t buy green:

  • 42 percent say they believe the product is of lesser quality than the traditional version
  • 27 percent say they didn’t trust the environmental claim on the product
  • 23 percent say the product was difficult to find
  • 16 percent say the product design was unattractive

What else motivates environmentally friendly purchases? Aspirational reasons are big drivers: Eighty-eight percent say they are inspired to buy environmental products because it’s healthier for themselves, their families or their communities; 85 percent say they want to preserve the environment for future generations. Still, the biggest motivator overall is money: 90 percent say they buy an environmental product because it will save them time or money in the long run.

How can you persuade customers to buy? Truth, clarity and cost savings are key:

  • Make sure your marketing message is truthful. Misleading consumers will backfire on you.
  • Make sure your marketing message is clear. Simplify and use commonly agreed-upon terms, seals or certifications to convey your green credentials.
  • Make sure you show how your product or service saves money—maybe not right up front, but over time.

Image by Flickr user moonlightbulb (Creative Commons)