Green Ads Draw Attention, but Raise Doubts

Advertising_age_jpegA new online survey by Burst Media reveals something surprising: the greenest consumer audience is the one that is most accepting and encouraging of green marketing initiatives.  Instead of being overly critical of green products in general, greenies are getting behind them as long as their claims are true.

Survey Finds High Recall, if Not Acceptance, of Environmental Claims

Posted April 15, 2008, Advertising Age
By Beth Snyder Bulik

The good news: Consumers have better-than-average recall when it comes
to remembering green advertising. The bad news: They aren’t buying into
the claims.

That’s the finding of a Burst Media online survey in April of
more than 6,000 consumers ages 18 and over about their perception of
environmental marketing. More than 70% of respondents recalled seeing
green ads at least occasionally, yet more than 20% said they never
believe the claims. And a whopping two-thirds say they only believe the
claims "sometimes."

Green classifications
However, there is a group that does appreciate marketers’
sustainability ad efforts. That group is the most dedicated green
consumers — the 5% who classify themselves as "completely green" —
and they are the biggest cheerleaders of the ads. For instance, 44% of
the self-described completely green consumers think advertisers are
doing an excellent or good job at providing information on green
claims, compared to less than 20% of the much larger group of consumers
classified as "aspirationally green."

"The deeply passionate green audience is rooting for the brand
marketers to get with the green thing," said Jarvis Coffin, president
and CEO of Burst. "That’s true of advertising in general. If you find
your best, most invested audience, speak to them and — providing your
claims hold up, of course — those people become your champions in the

He thinks that the popularity of current green-marketing
initiatives offers a unique marketing opportunity. He called it a
"clean laboratory" where marketers can get a bigger picture of
advertising in general, and how consumers interact with brands.

"The message, or the moral, of this story is that everyone is
aware of the importance of the issue of green … and marketers are
certainly conscious of that. But they need to be aware of the fact that
it’s only superficial until you get down to where the hard-core
audience is," Mr. Coffin said. Marketers "have got to overcome a lot of
suspicion, and the place to do that is with that group of deeply
engaged consumers."

Online targeting
He believes the internet, with its capacity for narrow, cost-effective targeting, is a good place to reach that group.

Indeed, almost 80% of those surveyed used the web to research
green initiatives and products themselves. The most searched-for
issues? Recycling information (36%); healthy recipes (34%); alternate
energy sources (28%); natural remedies (26%) and eco-friendly cleaning
products (25%).

Ads aren’t the first place consumers find out about companies’
green efforts and products, either. Almost 44% find out from news
stories, 35% cite word-of-mouth, and 34% cite personal research. Ads
ranked as the No. 4 source of information, cited by fewer than 27% of

Another key difference between the true and casual green
consumers was their motives for going green. Casual greenies most often
cited "good for the environment" (62%) as their top reason, while the
more dedicated said it was "to live a better quality of life" (48%).

"It’s highly personal for them. It’s gone beyond ‘we fix the
environment if we all work together’ to ‘it’s good for me and my
family,’" Mr. Coffin said. "Marketers need to take a more personal
approach … connect the dots between your company’s rationale for
being green to being better for you personally."

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