Getting a Green Brand on the Customer's Radar

Getting a Green Brand on the Customer's Radar

At the recent State of Green Business Forum held in San Francisco, Greener World Media Executive Editor Joel Makower said, "Going through the marketplace these days is not unlike going through one of those newfangled airport screening devices where they can see through your clothes."

And, then quoting from the book "The Naked Corporation," Makower advised, "If you're going to be naked, you'd better be buff."

GoodGuide founder Dara O'Rourke, a panelist in the Forum's "Green Marketing in the Age of Radical Transparency" session, elaborated on the increased scrutiny of corporations, particularly of their green products. "More and more consumers are demanding this information … This has helped lead to 500 eco-labels and thousands of ratings."

With all this talk about naked corporations being under constant scrutiny, it seems reasonable that new products aspiring to be labeled green should be preoccupied with passing muster with the arbiters of what's green, be they NGOs, consumers, or ratings agencies.

The reality, though, is that many green brands wish they had the problem of being scrutinized, at least by consumers. They may be naked, with more and more facts about their green features becoming available, but it does not appear that many consumers are paying attention.

Woody Allen famously once said, "Eighty percent of success is showing up." The same can be said of consumer brands, both green and non-green. Before green brands can succeed, consumers have to know they exist.

For example, data from "Sustainability in the Mainstream," a recent study by my firm, Green Meridian, suggests that many green household cleaner and personal care product brands are off the radar for many consumers. Only 35 percent of the women surveyed were able to name even just one household cleaner brand typically considered green. The situation is even more acute for green personal care products, with just 18 percent of women successfully naming one green personal care brand without any prompting. In follow-up interviews, women presented with samples of various green cleaners and personal care products often responded with blank stares.

I want to be very clear. I am not urging green marketers to temporarily abandon their efforts to burnish their products' green credentials and wait until they first build sufficient brand awareness. After all, if you're going to call attention to yourself, you'd better be ready for the exposure. However, marketers shouldn't get so caught up in the other aspects of brand building that they neglect one of the cornerstones of a successful brand, high awareness.

Part of this is a distribution issue. Many green brands simply aren't in stores where mainstream America shops. However, it's also an advertising problem. Weak ad spending and unmemorable ads are keeping many green brands out of sight and out of mind.

Seventh Generation
, which recently launched an extensive ad campaign, recognizes the problem. CEO Chuck Maniscalco says, "What we've found is that we only had awareness that was between 10 and 20 percent of the population, so almost 9 out of 10 people didn't know we existed. And yet close to half of the population had a high interest in the kinds of products [we make] and the kind of company we are."

Many green brands have great stories to tell. So don't be shy. Come out and talk to us.

Jeff Dubin is the founder of Green Meridian, a marketing research firm dedicated to helping green marketers succeed with both core green consumers and the mainstream.

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