J500 Media and the Environment

Churning Green into Ice Cream by hilarywright
October 18, 2008, 5:40 pm
Filed under: Business + Politics, Society + Media | Tags: , ,

Every good marketer knows that the first step to communicating a message is to know thy audience. Thus it comes as no surprise that Jeni Rogers’ presentation emphasized the importance of addressing your audience’s cares and concerns when creating compelling “green” messaging.

Sometimes your audience will be more concerned about budget, quality, and convenience than what’s good for the environment. This doesn’t mean that marketers can’t communicate to these consumers about their green initiatives, but as Jeni put it, “It’s the cherry on top.”

I would argue that as long as going green is the cherry on top, the majority of consumers are unlikely to commit to going green for the long haul. Over my rather short lifetime of 27 years, I have seen the popularity of “going green” come and go in a cyclical pattern. Whether marketers are following the tidal wave or creating it, I’m unsure. But it’s hard for me to believe that every teen to twenty-something who buys a trendy bag or shirt from Target or Threadless is truly committed to making the environment better.

From Target.com

Although the 2007 GfK Roper Green Gauge® study found 87 percent of consumers are “seriously concerned about the environment,” it seems that many face difficulty in turning concern into action. I would argue that if 87 percent were truly “seriously concerned” that we would see more action and that green initiatives would no longer be the cherry on top but rather the ice cream in the sundae.

I do not doubt that the study above accurately presented its findings, but self-reported data is often unreliable because people report how they like to think of themselves or would like others to think of them, rather than their true behavior.

What does this all mean? Green communicators need to work harder to educate consumers about the impact we have on the environment, so becoming more responsible for the environment becomes one of consumers’ main concerns.

In the same study by GfK Roper, 50 percent of consumers said they “do not have the information to be personally involved in increasing their green behavior.” Education is clearly an issue. Until the general public has a better understanding of environmental issues and what they can do about them, I believe “going green” will remain in its cyclical pattern. The trick will be turning green education into common knowledge that consumers do not have to actively seek out.

-Hilary Wright


5 Comments so far
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Excellent analysis of the dats. As a marketer, what steps do you take to bridge that divide between information and commitment in a way that will stick?

Comment by j500

Hilary, I like how you pinpoint consumer education as the next step in stopping the green marketing cycle and making it a more permanent issue. What are some ways that companies and enviornmental groups can educate consumers? Do you think people are looking for just facts and figures or more compelling stories to change their behavior?

Comment by michellec1

Hilary – While reading your post an interesting commercial just came on tv from IBM. I tried to find a link for it on You Tube, but wasn’t successful. After the commercial it directs you to http://www.ibm.com/gogreen and I was interested enough in the commercial to see what IBM is doing to go green. I agree with what you said in your post that green communicators need to work harder to educate consumers and that is exactly what this site attempts to do. I think education is going to be the foundation for this green movement and to keep it fresh and new. Do you have an example of how one of your favorite companies that is going green is attempting to educate consumers?

Comment by brookec08


I agree with you that not everyone who buys green is actually 100% committed to making the environment better. Is it a game? Companies pretend to go green and consumers pretend to believe in it and buy into it? But even if it is a game, at least, more and more attention is being brought to environmental issues. While it’s not ideal, it’s a start. I’m not sure what can be done to make people really committ. More education would be important, more accessibility in terms of product prices, recycling centers, etc, would also help. If not perfect, at least the green wave seems to be getting our minds thinking.

Comment by angelikeg

In order for companies to successfully market green products, I believe at least three things must occur: 1) consumers must understand why they should care, 2) consumers must know how to take on green behavior, and 3) the advertising of companies selling “green” products must be regulated, so consumers know it can be trusted.

I think the first step for accomplishing number one and two above is for environmental nonprofit organizations to invest in ad campaigns to reach the general public. Benchmarking campaigns that have educated people on being healthy such as Got Milk or anti-smoking campaigns could be a good place to start. These campaigns have managed to create really simple messages that make the issue at hand personal to the audience. Thus in order to bridge the gap between information and commitment, marketers need to make the message simple and make it matter.

Comment by hilarywright

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