Know Thy Target
How do you define your target consumer? Demographically -- by age, locale or sex? Or psychographically, i.e., by lifestyle orientation? Why do your customers really buy your product? Are they genuinely interested in the environmental benefits your product offers or are they more interested in saving money or preserving health? Are they more motivated by global issues such as climate change and ozone layer depletion or such local ones as air and water pollution or litter? How can you efficiently find more customers just like them?
For green marketers, answering such questions may be tough. The complexity of the issues and the many ways to solve them suggests that it is highly segmented. To boot, the green market is, well, still quite "green." Sophisticated mailing lists and databases do not yet exist like those in more evolved markets.
A tiny bit of rather unsatisfactory research has attempted to segment the market; beyond that, we can speculate about other ways to divide up and reach the green consumer pie based on specific areas of environmental interest and lifestyle orientation.
How Deep Is Your Customer's Green Interest?
Roper Starch Worldwide has segmented the green consumer market into five 'shades' of green. They range from a 15% core of educated, upscale individuals who say they are willing to pay a premium or forego certain conveniences to ensure a cleaner environment, to 37% of the public who are doggedly non-environmentalist, characterized more by indifference than by anti-environmentalist leanings.
Environmental behavior varies significantly between these shades; the deepest are the 'True-Blue Greens' and the 'Greenback Greens', which Roper identifies as the active environmentalists. In the middle are the 'Sprouts,' characterized as the swing segment, followed by the non-active environmentalists, namely the 'Grousers' and finally the 'Basic Browns' - a considerable departure from the True Blues. The deeper the 'shade' of green, the greater the willingness to make green purchasing decisions.
What Is Your Consumer's Interest -- Exactly?
Deep green consumers can be further characterized by the type of environmental issue that concerns them. We at J. Ottman Consulting have detected what appears to be three distinct groups closely mirroring various environmental issues and the respective NGOs and media vehicles that target them. They include: "Planet Passionates," "Health Fanatics", and "Animal Lovers."
- Planet Passionates want to protect wildlife and keep the environment pristine for recreational purposes. They focus on issues relating to land, air, and water. They recycle bottles and cans, avoid over-packaged products, clean up bays and rivers, and boycott tropical hardwoods.
- As implied by their name, Health Fanatics focus on the health consequences of environmental problems. They worry about getting cancer from too much exposure to the sun, genetic defects from radiation and toxic waste, and the long-term impact on their children's health of pesticides on fruit. Health Fanatics frequent natural-food stores, buy bottled water, and eat organic foods.
- Animal Lovers protect animal rights. They boycott tuna and fur, and among their favorite causes are manatees and spotted owls. Animal Lovers check to see if products are "cruelty-free." They are likely to be vegetarians.
How Green Is My Customer's Lifestyle?
In addition to segmenting along environment-related concerns, consumers of green products will also divide up on how they choose to integrate green into their own personal brand of 21st century lifestyle. This segmentation suggests that the market is quite broad if not mainstream altogether.
On the one hand are the more "low tech/high touch" segment of Birkenstock-clad, yoga-practicing, fair traders with a fondness for hemp, beans, and granola who may frequent health food stores the classic green consumers. On the other, however, are those consumers who may be more interested in the high-tech, heavily design-orientation of such green products as hybrid cars, wind-up trendy radios, and fashions engineered from used soda bottles. Note the Sharper Image distribution of the Freeplay radio and further evolutions of this human powered technology for emergency purposes. In promoting its hybrid cars, Toyota seems to focus more on superior driving performance than high fuel efficiency.
Find Them on the Internet
The segmented nature of green along with its current niche appeal, at least among classic greens, suggests that the Internet may prove quite useful in finding one's target cheaply and quickly.
For products with narrow appeal, the Internet can help growing businesses cast a wide geographic net. Various sites such as Gaiam.com, GreenHome.com, and Environmental Home Center.com can help target various types of consumers attempting to integrate green buying into their lifestyles.
The more actively engaged greens such as Roper's True Blue Greens and our own "Animal Lovers" might be found at activist sites such as The Center for A New American Dream, Co-op America's Green Pages Online, Igive.com, and Greenculture.com, which encourage consumers to buy differently in support of various social and environmental causes.
All greens might be found shopping at the myriad sites which specialize in green products of every stripe, from health and beauty aids, and pet foods, to energy efficient lighting products such as dimmable fluorescent torchieres (yes, they do exist!) not found in conventional lighting stores.
Still other sites, such as The Green Guide, EarthSystems.org, Ecomall.com, and ecoworld.com, offer green networking, bringing greens of all stripes and information together.
Jacquelyn Ottman is president of J. Ottman Consulting, Inc., a NYC-based marketing consulting firm that advises companies on how to develop and market environmentally sound products. Her book, Green Marketing: Opportunity for Innovation, is available from the GreenBiz Bookstore. This column has been reprinted with permission from "The Ottman Report on Green Marketing and Eco-Innovation."
Lauren Gropper and Mike Sadowski assisted with the preparation of this article.
To obtain a free listing of some of the most popular green consumer websites, email J. Ottman Consulting.