Green, like hope, is not a good marketing strategy (yet).
Joe Bananas and I were staying at a hotel near Chicago. We’d just come back from a golf outing reunion with our high school football team. Neither of us golf, so we played demolition derby with the golf carts while our teammates got in 18 holes. We came back to the room to shower and get dressed for the night out. (Note to spouse: Honey, the library is open real late there.)
Joe came out of the hotel room bathroom with a towel and a little plastic sign. “They want us to re-use towels to help save the environment!” he says. “I care about trees, but, I’m not using a towel after you use it.”
“Dude,” I say (I often revert to 70s phrases when with my old high school buds), “they want you to re-use your own towel…not mine.” “Oh,” he says — though I’m not sure he believed me because he stuck two clean towels under his bed.
GREEN NOT A HABIT YET
Joe’s not alone. Studies show only about one-third of guests re-use towels when asked to “help save the environment.” Consumers’ concern for the environment is trumped by self-interest.
Searching for the “next big thing,” many marketers try to create products or services that are “more green.” Sometimes these efforts are developed because the business owner has a concern for the environment. But too often the motivation is to tap in to what is seen as a lucrative market.
But when applying green aspects to existing products, you’ll find you’re attracting a niche market — niche as in “small.” Large numbers of people are NOT willing to spend more money or do more work to get a green product or service.
Worse, it creates doubt about performance. Besides the higher cost, why don’t more people buy small or hybrid cars? They worry the car won’t be as fast or powerful. They worry it won’t have a good resale value.
Does a “green” paint cover as well as a regular paint? Does a “green” bleach clean as well? Maybe, but doubt sends consumers back to the regular version.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
If you want to sell green products or services now, here are tactics that can work:
Social Pressure. When hotels say, “Join your fellow guests in saving the environment,” the rate of towel re-use goes up.
Proven Performance. Label your package with some test data showing that it is equally effective as (or more effective than) the traditional product.
Endorsements. Will the local chapter of the Sierra Club or Garden Club or other environmental group endorse your efforts, products and services?
Manage Expectations. Going green is great. Just don’t expect it to be anything but niche results at first.
The bottom line is, green is a good direction. But don’t expect something to fly off the shelf just because it’s green. It has to be as good as or better than the traditional product.
Stay tuned and stay smart. ##