Thursday, January 17, 2008

Green consumers - they want to, but...

Interesting study from the marketing agency EcoAlign on consumer perceptions of clean technology (1,000 online survey respondents):

A new report on consumer perceptions of clean technologies in residential areas finds that 54 percent of the respondents surveyed have not adopted some form of cleantech largely because they don't understand it…

…Asked to rate cleantech products, most non-adopters considered the products expensive (53 percent), difficult to understand (72 percent), and difficult to maintain (76 percent). Cleantech adopters surveyed agreed with these assessments, though their negative scores were 10 percentage points lower. 60 percent of adopters also said they found the technology reliable, but only 44 percent considered the products beautiful.
The survey itself (the second one conducted by the company) makes for a good read (a quick sign-up is required to download).
The second EcoPinion Survey provides further evidence of a green gap between willingness to adopt or purchase green products, services and technologies, and consumer value perceptions around those offerings. While concern for the environment is at an all time high, consumers think that many forms of green technology (renewable, energy efficient or recycled materials) are cost prohibitive, difficult to understand and maintain, and aesthetically unappealing…

…This green gap in consumer perceptions offers insight into the dichotomy of customers’ stated intentions, e.g., their desire to be more green or frugal with energy consumption, and their actual behavior….The second EcoPinion survey results point to the clear need for companies to work harder to connect their products and services with the customer’s value chain around convenience, comfort, cost and design.
This has long been a point of concern among the environmental community, and those selling “green” products or services. While polls tend to show consumer interest in environmentally conscious and/or energy saving products is rising, specific action has been muted at best (albeit with some successes also, such as Prius sales topping the Ford Explorer).

Joel Makower has long hammered this point home, with a great post last week:
This just in: pretty much every consumer is concerned about the environment and is thinking conscientiously about what they buy — how it's made, under what conditions, and by whom….sound too good to be true? It is, of course. But you wouldn't know it from the marketing studies I've been seeing — and the breathless headlines that result.
Other great posts from Joel on the same topic are here and here.

As I wrote in a post a couple weeks ago:
Perhaps the single most important aspect of marketing is "authenticity". Be it tweens, 18-34 men, housewives or NASCAR fans - know your audience and be real to them. The same of course applies for companies trying to reach consumers interested in the environmental practices, perhaps some of the toughest critics around.
No post on marketing to green consumers would be complete without the requisite “next steps”. And while that sounds snarky, I think EcoAlign does a good job with theirs, offering simple, concrete steps that may be marketing 101, but tend to be forgotten by people who should know better:
1. Invest the necessary money in market research. Market research is the skeleton of any successful marketing effort, and creating memorable, measurable campaigns that are grounded in core business, and customer expectations around the company’s brand and the value created.

2. Go deeper and articulate more compellingly the reasons why people should care and act in regard to the green tech offering. Energy tech companies are dominated by an engineering-centric, product-oriented view of the world, yet customers are more attuned to emotional appeals. This approach must be achieved through careful messaging segmentation and utilizing the full range of delivery channels, including new media.

3. Align design with functionality.
While customers are satisfied that most green technologies are “reliable,” meaning that they will work as advertised, more attention needs to be paid to how these technologies look and feel to the customer. Sustainability can be beautiful, and command a premium for that value.

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