Five Things Yahoo Knows About Getting Consumers’ Green Attention

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Posted July 2008
Sustainable Life Media

With an audience of more than 6 million users visiting Yahoo’s
homepage each month, you could say the company knows a thing or two
about what’s drawing people’s attention these days. Erin Carlson, director of Yahoo’s social responsibility department, took Sustainable Brands ’08 attendees through some of the big lessons – and they contained some big surprises.

“Our goal is to use our unique core assets to make the world a
better place,” said Erin Carlson, director of Yahoo’s social
responsibility department, told a packed auditorium. Specifically, “We
want to inspire consumers to make the world a better place by using our
products and services.”

A lot of inspiration for that effort comes from Yahoo customers. Two
years ago, for example, Yahoo Autos launched an online poll asking
whether consumers were considering purchasing an alternative fuel
vehicle in the next year. A stunning 60% said yes, and the smart folks
at Yahoo spotted a major opportunity to serve a consumer need. Enter
the Yahoo Autos Green Center.

Yahoo has since launched green centers on a number of its content
channels, from finance to shopping. “In addition to the so-called
‘green consumers,’ there are also a lot of people who may not be
seeking out the green alternatives but express curiosity and interest
when they’re offered new ways to be more environmentally responsible,”
Carlson explained.

Last year, the company launched Yahoo Green – a new content channel focusing on “actionable, practical tips for conscious consumers.”

You can bet Yahoo is tracking all that web traffic, too, and as
Carlson modestly put it, “we have a pretty good finger on the pulse of
what consumers are interested in when it comes to green messaging.”
Here are some of the surprising things Yahoo has learned about what
works – and what doesn’t – when it comes to getting consumers’ clicking
through on green:

  • Consumers don’t want doom and gloom. They want to hear
    about optimistic innovations – to hear about what’s possible. For
    example, a story on an air-powered car proved a powerful draw.
  • There’s a lot of skepticism about celebrities’ green endorsements.
    “People want to know if there’s been a back-room deal signed to promote
    that star’s image,” Carlson said. “Green and celebrities are not
    necessarily a good match.” Imagery of real people making a difference
    is much more effective.
  • Consumers love surprises. Some of last year’s biggest
    clickthroughs? An article about a woman who lives in an 84-square-foot
    house, and a feature on the Pope adding environmental degradation to
    list of sins. “People want to be able to drop these tidbits at the next
    cocktail party,” said Carlson.
  • What’s in it for me? Consumers are interested in new gadgets that save money and products that offer health benefits.
  • There’s a shift from awareness to action. Top-searched environmental term in 2006? “Climate change.” Top-searched in 2007? “Recycling.” 

Carlson’s advice to online marketers? Piggyback green promos on
traditionally high-interest categories (remember all those consumers
that are curious about green products and services, but only if they’re
served up on a platter). For example, Yahoo’s holiday gift guide last
year featured a green product alongside the latest hot gadgets and toys
– and traffic on those products went through the roof.

For more research, practical lessons, and key takeaways from Sustainable Brands ’08, click here!

No Responses to “Five Things Yahoo Knows About Getting Consumers’ Green Attention”

  1. “Consumers don’t want doom and gloom. They want to hear about optimistic innovations – to hear about what’s possible. For example, a story on an air-powered car proved a powerful draw.”
    That would be less about optimism and more about blind hope for a miracle invention that will wipe out environmental fears. People think of an air car and they think of a miracle.

    “There’s a shift from awareness to action. Top-searched environmental term in 2006? “Climate change.” Top-searched in 2007? “Recycling.” ”
    I question any “shift” that includes recycling. Recycling, which gained marketing velocity in the 1990s, has consistently blocked forward momentum on the more important of the 3 R’s: reducing and reusing.
    Just a thought.

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