Top Five Common Mistakes in Green Marketing

Posted on August 11, 2010

In the green world, knowing your audience is important. Miscommunication can cause a host of backlash, so it is important to be very specific and understand that consumers are wise to ‘come-ons’ and suspicious of extravagant claims. When you design material to communicate with this demographic, keep the following 10 tips in mind so you don’t lose business before it ever gets to your door.

Five Common Mistakes

1. Underestimating the intelligence of the audience

According to the New York Times, the green consumer tends to be inquisitive, suspicious, more open to new ideas and better informed than any other group of consumers in the marketplace. They have value standards to uphold that are considered for every purchase, and they do their research before deciding on what product to buy. It is important to provide verifiable facts and figures for them to use in their decision-making process and appeal to their heads as well as their hearts.

2. Making and disseminating vague or misleading environmental statements

When Ford launched its “Kermit the Frog” advertising campaign for their Ford Escape Hybrid, they ran ads that said, “Green vehicles. Cleaner factories. It’s the right road for our company, and we’re well underway.”

Meanwhile, Ford only produced 20,000 ‘green’ Hybrid SUV’s per year, while continuing to produce almost 80,000 gas guzzling F-series trucks per month. Needless to say, smart consumers caught on to the hypocrisy quickly and the campaign backfired so severely that the term “Greenwashing” became synonymous with Ford. Greenwashing is a derogatory term that consumers pin on misleading claims in green-targeted advertising. A company once accused of greenwashing has to do serious damage control to attract environmentally conscious consumers back to their company.

3. Use sweeping generalities to define the green consumer

The green demographic is not one single entity that reacts uniformly to all environmental criteria . A green consumer can range from 19 percent deep greens (who are totally committed to basing all purchases on green standards) to 33 percent medium greens (who are willing to make moderate sacrifices and pay a bit more for green products and services) to 16 percent light greens (who make green choices only if it makes economical as well as ecological sense). Make sure you know which demographic of this audience you want to address with your message and craft it accordingly.

4. Committing sins of omission

Transparency is everything in the information rich green market. When Horizon Organic Dairy advertised happy cows, it didn’t take green consumer’s long to investigate and discover that their cows weren’t so happy after all and were subjected to harsh factory conditions. Consequently, a protest was organized against the dairy that damaged their credibility and allowed a host of other products with higher standards to rush in and fill the gap. All the great PR in the world can’t correct a ’sin of omission’ marketing blunder.

5. Underestimating the power of the Internet

The internet has changed the way consumers shop, and the word-of-mouth network can spread bad news like a virus through blogs, social networking sites and comments on posted stories. In a flash, millions of consumers are alerted to misdeeds or extravagant product claims, and the green community has extensive, sophisticated internet networks and they know how to them effectively. This is why advertisers targeting the green market have to display a sense of integrity that leaves the flashy sales techniques and come-ons behind. All it takes is a click of the mouse for word to spread like wildfire, so make sure the gossip about your product or service gets the right kind of reviews by forgoing hype and maintaining integrity.

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