July 15, 2008

Should DRTV marketers “go green”?

In conference rooms across the country, marketers are talking about “going green" – that is, launching earth-friendly products or adding a “green twist” to their existing product lines. Even in the DRTV industry, where product success must be immediate and measurable, going green is the hot topic. With this in mind, I offer the following information from two recent BrandWeek articles.

The first tidbit comes from an interview with Len Sauers, vice president of sustainability for Procter & Gamble. "Consumer research has shown that there is a very small niche of consumers (5-10%), who are willing to accept some trade-off (e.g. higher cost, lesser performance) in order to purchase a product that claims environmental benefits,” Sauers says. “The vast majority of consumers (50-75%) feel environmental issues are important, but are not willing to accept such trade-offs.”

The second piece of information comes from Mintel International, a Chicago research firm. "About 10% of the population are Never Greens,” Jim Edwards of BrandWeek writes, quoting Mintel research. “[These people] don't buy green products, don't remember green advertising when they see it and are irritated by it even if they do.”

The Never Greens “also showed up in a survey by Shelton Group, an ad agency for BP Solar, the oil giant's renewable unit,” Edwards adds. “About 26% of Americans are hardcore skeptics, according to Suzanne Shelton, the CEO of the Knoxville, Tenn., firm.”

Shelton also reinforces Sauers’ point about the mass market and “trade-offs.” Most consumers “desire to be green goes only about as far as their desire not to be inconvenienced,” according to Shelton. When you ask people, “Given a choice between your comfort, your convenience or the environment, which do you most often choose?” 46% of people choose comfort, Shelton says.

So what we have here is a typical bell curve. At the beginning of the curve, we have one group of outliers: the 10% who are Greens. These are people who consider the environment enough of a priority to sacrifice comfort, convenience, value and/or performance. These are the people who buy products just because they’re “green.”

At the other end of the curve, we have another group of outliers: the 10% who are Never Greens. As described above, these people do not consider the environment a priority and are turned off by "green" products.

In the middle, we have the rest of America. Most consumers care about the environment, but not enough to make sacrifices. (Whether that is really caring is a value judgment I leave up to my readers.)

So how should a smart DRTV marketer, who’s perhaps considering a "green" product, interpret this information? My advice: Evaluate the product as if it didn’t have a "green" aspect.

In other words, use your normal criteria for success (or feel free to borrow mine). If the item passes, then start thinking about how to mix that "green" message into your advertising. But if it fails, walk away – because you will only be talking to 10% of the marketplace.

After all, you wouldn’t seriously consider marketing a product for the 10% of people who are Never Greens, would you?

Sources: “Mr. Clean, Meet Mr. Green,” BrandWeek, 5/20/2008
Forget the Environment Say the 'Never Greens',” BrandWeek, 7/13/2008

Special thanks to Anne Flynn for calling my attention to the first article.

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