Companies that have decided to go green are leading by example. But this widespread practice presents two inherent problems when it comes to green marketing.
First, as the environmental culture permeates all walks of life, it becomes nearly impossible to find and define a “green” target demographic group. The once small cluster of “environmentalists” is now part of a larger population, spilling over into a wide range of age groups as well as educational and socioeconomic levels. Sure there are still a group of dedicated environmentalists. However they are now a highly informed, savvy niche segment that needs little, if any, marketing to draw them to greener products and services. The remaining green market is so vast that there is no actual green target demographic group.
The other problem that has arisen for marketers is that “the environment” is a very broad term, encompassing greenhouse effects, global warming, disappearing rain forests, sustainability, renewable energy, air and water pollution, and much more. While the vast majority of the buying public is certainly concerned about most if not all of these areas, they are as a group overwhelmed. In fact, while a number of surveys show that 70 percent to 75 percent of buyers will choose greener products if they are available, only 15 percent of those buyers truly consider themselves knowledgeable about most environmental issues.
Is Niche Green the Answer?
The new green marketing, particularly for small business owners, needs to focus on the same marketing principles that draw customers to buy your products or services now. That remains your core demographic group. They are not necessarily “green” per se but will include that same 70 percent to 75 percent of green-minded customers. It is therefore up to you to find the common denominator that puts “green” into their world.
David Anderson, founder and publisher of Green Options, points out that one of the reasons his environmental Web site is divided up into various categories is that people focus much more closely on “green” as it pertains to them. Anderson uses the example of new parents who suddenly focus on buying nontoxic items for the home, such as cleaning supplies and air filters. Therefore Green Options launched a specific section focusing primarily on greening the home environment for children.
What this means to you is that if you sell clothing, you’ll want to have part of your inventory consisting of organic cotton fabrics and fashions from sustainable products, allowing you to market the benefits of natural fibers and healthy materials to your niche market of clothing buyers. Likewise, if you are in the car industry, selling hybrids and biodiesel-powered vehicles, you will be marketing these specific fuel benefits to car buyers and enthusiasts.
Green marketing to a niche audience means not only meeting consumers on common ground but educating them in the benefits of buying green as it pertains to their lifestyles. It is at this point you may be able to extend your marketing into other peripheral products and services again through specific green benefits that pertain to your target market. Your Web site is the perfect place to explain your little piece of the green world, whether it is why you sell natural wood products or what Forest Stewardship Council certification is all about. Green marketing to a niche audience is becoming more effective than trying to teach the car buyer about the rain forests.
It’s Also in the Packaging
An additional area in which there has been a rapid increase in consumer concern is in the packaging and shipping of products. Wal-Mart led the charge with its own list of requirements, making suppliers measure up on environmental packaging issues. Many companies across the board have followed suit, not only in packaging for shipping purposes but in developing their own eco-friendly boxes and containers. From Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, with its Ecotainer, created as the first environmental coffee container made entirely from renewable materials, to Poland Spring’s new eco-shaped bottles, with their decreased use of plastic, there is a movement toward packaging and shipping in an environmentally friendly manner. You can use reusable and recyclable cartons and packaging as well as replace Styrofoam peanuts with ones made of eco-friendly alternatives, such as 100 percent biodegradable high-grade cornstarch and soybean oil. When you make a change such as this, let your customers know. It’s a simple and effective means of green marketing.