The Evolution of the Green Consumer
We’re living in an age dominated by one color: green. Modern brands strive to be environmentally responsible, eco-friendly, eco-conscious, energy efficient, sustainable, safe, clean, and natural. Newly responsible brands tout their carbon footprint and their environmental stewardship, their corporate citizenship and their commitment to the triple bottom line. The only problem? Now that everything is green, almost nothing is. Finding the difference between truly green products and those that are simply “greenwashed” is a whole lot trickier than it used to be, now that so many companies have jumped on the green bandwagon. But consumers are cutting through the dense forest of green branding to find out for themselves which products are truly sustainable, and which only say they are. The new “dark green” consumer is smarter and more cynical than her hippie progenitors. She’s at the forefront of a generation that's transforming how we define – and market – sustainability. It's time for marketers to catch up.
The New Green Consumer: Savvy and Conscious
When it comes to brand worship, the new conscious consumer is agnostic. To her, sustainability is the sum total of a company's products, culture, and business practices. Her brand loyalty is a process that reflects an ongoing education about a company's true identity. She expects transparency: not only about where her preferred products are sourced, but also about their makers’ motivations. To win over this green consumer, brands of all sizes need to carefully craft their sustainability stories – not so easy for a companies whose operations span the globe. Large multinational corporations often face skepticism about their green practices, even though they certainly have the resources to implement and track sustainability across their entire operations. In fact, many have done so. Consumers might just not have noticed. Green consumers often believe that smaller companies are more conscientious about their own practices and suppliers, in part because it’s easier to communicate the intricacies of small-scale operations to consumers. Corporations with tens of thousands of employees, warehouses, factories, and distributors across the world often paint their green commitment with broad strokes, leaving the details in reports that are usually buried in a tab somewhere on the company website. Despite brand’s intentions to the contrary, those reports may seem esoteric or, worse, ambiguous, from a consumer perspective. To the conscientious consumer, that ambiguity is symptomatic of a laissez-faire attitude toward the environment. Often, a “green” brand is one that explicitly rejects traditional corporate practices. The green consumer may shun corporate products completely. If she doesn’t, the time she’ll spend scrutinizing each company’s sustainability practices before she buys can lead to confusion, exhaustion, or even resentment. Don’t be ambiguous. To attract the green consumer, express sustainable values everywhere the consumer looks: On the product label, in media advertising, in web ads, in social media, on the company blog... Wherever possible- and relevant- make green an integral part of your brand’s identity.
Green Consumers Love Good Design
Today’s consumers have been deeply affected by Apple, and so have other product companies. Many of us seek out clean-lined, easy-to-use products, from tablet computers to resin garden chairs. Design is especially important to the green consumer. In fact, she may have a degree in it. From packaging to product, the green consumer’s purchases indicate both her environmental and aesthetic awareness. Marketers looking to advance a green product or brand need to be aware of their customers’ sophistication. It’s not enough to craft a box of brown recycled cardboard and print on it with soy-based ink. The dark green consumer values products and packaging that are minimal, functional, reusable, and inventive – think fold-up bikes or cardboard iPad stands. From her perspective, design is not an afterthought, but another avenue to innovate and express sustainability. Serious marketers know to treat it as such. From conception to finished product and packaging, marketers need to discover our true colors: if what we’re selling is truly green, it’s worthy of a thoughtful green marketing campaign. If we don’t, consumers won't be the only ones seeing a lot less green.