Green marketing, just to be green marketing, is often referred to as "green washing." Meaning you are trying to brain wash people into thinking you are green when you are not. Further, depending on the audience, you may have a backlash from those who do not believe the planet is warming and that "green" adds cost and inconvenience to their lives.
After twenty years of researching many things green (or related to recycling, clean technology, and energy efficiency), we would make the following recommendations regarding green marketing:
1) You have a green image whether you like it or not. That is, your vehicles, your employees and others representing you have a green image and when they come into contact with your potential customers this has an impact. The green factor is just something people think about when they think of a brand. And like an image or brand, you should think about it because your image helps or hurts your ability to generate revenue (even if you are a non-profit).
2) Never lead with green. Right now there are 400 different “green seals” of approval. Many customers are skeptical. And with some good reason – since misguided organizations have seals or “natural products” that have burned customers when they learn that the product is not “green” and the seal or “eco label” didn’t mean much.
3) You can nearly always lead with costs savings. Ideally this “cost savings” is because of a superior quality product. The key is quality. If you suggest your product is cheaper, in green spaces, this makes the customer suspicious. An example would be green paint. If you try to sell cheap green paint to a painting contractor they are not going to buy it because they would worry that it would not cover and might require multiple coats of paint. Since contractors are passing costs to customers and their labor is a big factor in the cost they will not take the risk.
4) Green products need to work better than the competition. Too often people bring out “green products” that are “as good” as the competition and wonder why the products don’t sell. This is because of the fact that many people who want green products will not give up their old habits to “experiment” with a new product. A recent homemaker we interviewed said that they often buy their old product and a new product just in case the “new” product doesn’t work because they don’t have the time and will not incur the cost of having to come back to the store (missing kids appointments, parking, driving, gas, etc.).
5) Think of it like a political campaign and a marathon. Don’t think that you can do one advertisement and get through to people. In fact, if you have a “green political candidate,” it is going to take negative advertisements to sell people to vote for that candidate. There is a reason that political ads go negative and throw mud. The reason is that people won’t vote for a new candidate unless they have a good reason to give up the incumbent.
6) Use endorsements from people who have had positive experiences. If you, the company producing the product are the spokesperson, you do not have the credibility of a third party.
7) If you have a big ticket item, many customers now expect that you are green and conscientious in how you produce that product. As the dollars go up on a green product, the more sophisticated the approach should be in how you “sell the environmental or sustainable” benefits of your product. The worst case scenario from a business standpoint is when you just add “green marketing” and this actually turns off prospective buyers.
8) Test your advertising. Ideally, you should do one-on-one interviewing in the stores where people will buy to get a true read of how people will view your new product against the competition. This is especially true for items that cost under $100 dollars. People are creatures of habit and you have to understand what will break them of their habits and be eye catching enough for them to gamble in the few seconds that they are looking at your product on the shelf.
More information about how “green seals” can detract from your message can be found at: http://www.environmentalleader.com/2009/09/28/proliferation-of-400-green-seals-detracts-from-message/