More than half of US consumers (58%) categorise themselves as being "not green-interested", also saying that they don't care about environmentally friendly practices such as recycling, corporate social responsibility, and natural or organic ingredients, according to a survey by branding firm Landor Associates.
The survey presents a clear warning to marketers who believe that adding a "green factor" to a product or company's image will help boost sales or brand perception.
The study, which was conducted among 510 consumers (aged 18+) found that 25% of consumers currently consider themselves "green-interested" (meaning that, while this group is concerned about the environment, it is not active in its defence of the environment).
How important is green?
After the 58% who are not interested in green issues, the remaining 17% categorised themselves as "green-motivated" (meaning that they feel it's very important for a company to be "green" in its approach, attitudes and products).
The green-motivated individuals said that they do base their purchase decisions on whether or not a brand reflects green behaviour in its packaging, ingredients and corporate actions.
What makes a brand green?
The Landor study also revealed that, while two-thirds of consumers can not name a brand they consider to be green, there are definite differences between perception and reality when it comes to naming companies that are green.
To consumers, a green brand uses technology that is environmentally friendly and uses natural and organic ingredients in its products. Brands placing emphasis on supporting environmentally responsible organisations or donating money to environmental causes, however, did not receive much recognition as being green.
The study found that brands with green logos and/or natural packaging (such as The Body Shop) naturally rose to the top in terms of green image. In categories not typically thought of as being green, such as automotive and petroleum, consumers did identify companies they consider more positively aligned with the environment.
Green branding issues
Among the survey's results, a few key trends stood out:
- Consumers don't understand "green" when it comes to companies and brands. Consumers may be interested in green, but they simply can't identify it clearly. Two-thirds (66%) of the American population said they could not identify the steps a company should take to make itself more green.
- Does the packaging make the brand green? Perhaps. Only 14% of green-motivated consumers said that producing environmentally safe products is what best marks a green brand, while brands with green logos or natural packaging were more readily identified as being green.
- Green-motivated consumers will still buy brands that they do not consider to be green. For example, in the fast food category, the perception of not being green does not deter even the most green-motivated individuals. Consumers will also buy in the automotive, petroleum and energy industries regardless of a brand's non-green image.