Green marketing: put the primary benefits first
Greener products are now part of everyday life, but they didn't get there just because they are better for the planet, according to Jacquelyn Ottman, who believes that sales of green products have grown because they are appreciated by a growing number of consumers for the value they provide, in terms of safety, comfort, good taste, and even convenience.
Despite a general misconception among many consumers that green products don't really work as well as their chemically-enhanced counterparts, many of today's green products actually work better than the ones they were designed to replace. Indeed, thanks to advances in technology and design, green is now becoming synonymous with quality and it can often command premium prices (for example, energy-saving lightbulbs, which cost more but last many times longer than traditional ones.)
Many green products are now promoted with messages that lead "beyond green" and underscore primary benefits such as health, performance, taste, cost effectiveness, or convenience. In the US, for example, Tide Cold Water highlights how much money consumers could save on energy bills, while the now-familiar Energy Star eco-label has gained recognition as consumers have made the connection between energy efficiency and saving money.
The central message of primary benefits is critical to winning over the mainstream consumer, and it is associated with the potential to drive growth as well. Consider the success of Clorox GreenWorks (a line of natural cleaning products): the name "Green Works" supported by the already-established Clorox brand name assures consumers that the product does its job, while the natural ingredients provide evidence of safety.
Further evidence of the success of green products has been their resilience in the recession. While consumers tried to save more money on their grocery bills, sales and purchase intent for green products remained strong because of the perceived value of many greener brands that lead their marketing with messages about their primary benefits. Moreover, many green brands are not only competitively priced but are also saving consumers money, either in the short or long term.
But despite these success stories, many green marketers do not yet stress primary benefits. This could be for two main reasons: In the past, many of the products offered by green brands didn't work as well as their traditional counterparts, so messages to the consumer tended to be a simple - for exampe, "Our product does everything your current brand does but in a greener way".
Then, over time, companies entering the market adopted the "planets, babies and daisies" approach, believing that such imagery was the 'price of entry' into a market they didn't fully understand or were not quite comfortable entering. But now, brands as GreenWorks and Tide Coldwater have proved that the name of the game is doing what they already do: leading with messages of primary benefits, while bringing in environmental factors as a secondary message.
The growing emphasis on the primary benefits of green brands is likely to continue, and will see increasingly sophisticated attempts to integrate primary benefits with environmental ones. One example of this is a current Lexus print advertisement: on the left we see a stylish new car with the headline 'Indulge your senses' while on the right we see a leaf under the headline, "Respect the planet". The key point that is delivered in a simple yet sophisticated way is that consumers can have their cake and eat it, too.
Looking ahead, green factors will eventually be so integrated into product design and brand culture that marketers won't even have to consider it when crafting marketing messages that resonate with consumers. But for now, the challenge is to articulate a distinctive expression of a consumer promise that can capitalise upon the inherent benefits of a product's environmental attributes.