Becoming Your Client’s Eco Expert

Corporate_logo_jpegThough ecoAmerica focuses on the consumer audiences that aren’t necessarily apart of the LOHAS community, there are some things to be learned from the experienced LOHAS marketers, such as Colette Chandler.  Corporatelogo.com takes us through Chandler’s, "five critical insights."

Posted Aug. 20, 2008

By Julie A. Cajigas, Corporatelogo

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you’ve noticed the green
trend sweeping the promotional products industry. Every industry show
is inundated with green options, and many distributors have created
end-user green catalogs. It’s no longer just a fad.

Colette
Chandler, a nationally renowned green and LOHAS marketing,
communications and trends expert, says the green lifestyle appeals to a
group of consumers wielding a $230-billion market share. Chandler, a
principal at The Marketing Insider, helps companies better understand
environmental and health trends so organizations of all sizes and types
can position their green brands.

OAS_AD(‘x96’)

Successful
distributors often act as marketing consultants, providing value-added
services along with high-quality promotional products. With expertise
in designing and implementing green communication plans, Chandler helps
distributors and marketing professionals understand the consumer group
that their clients are looking to engage. Below are Chandler’s five
critical insights into providing value-added, eco-friendly solutions to
your clients that will set you apart from your competition.

1. The Low-Down on LOHAS

In
lay terms, Chandler is referring to the group we think of as
eco-friendly consumers who generally aren’t making purchase decisions
based on convenience or cost. These are the people who shop farther
from their homes to purchase organic foods and pay more to buy recycled
or fair-trade products. It’s important to remember that LOHAS
consumers’ preferences extend beyond environmental concerns to social
justice, fair trade, inclusion and other key social issues.

These
consumers are quickly becoming a major force in today’s market. They
may be prospects that were previously unreachable but have come within
reach due to the eco-friendly products and services your clients now
provide. Your clients will appreciate the time you take to educate
them. Many may not be aware of LOHAS or the terminology surrounding
this group. Consider compiling a resource and presentation tool that
contains common vocabulary — everything from LOHAS to Forest
Stewardship Council (FSC) certified. Also, if you do not have a green
catalog, put together a small sampling of products to share with them
at your first appointment. By educating clients, you are demonstrating
that you bring value to the table.

2. Know Your Audience

As
you know, understanding what makes your target end users tick is one of
the most crucial elements of a successful marketing campaign. When
promoting an eco-friendly initiative, you first need to identify and
reach the audience. You’ll need to know the behaviors and preferences
of audience members to ensure communications are well-received. One
challenge many distributors currently face is finding detailed
information about LOHAS audiences or those audiences you can influence
with a green message.

While existing research and white papers
are available, finding that information can be challenging. That’s
where the experts come in. In addition to consulting, Chandler and The
Marketing Insider offer detailed information about LOHAS consumers that
can help you better understand this demographic and its purchasing
preferences. For instance, it’s helpful to know that 60 percent of
LOHAS consumers are women, and the group, in general, heavily
influences family purchasing decisions. They are also avid readers and
radio listeners, Chandler reports.

Imagine the reception you
would get walking into your client’s office armed with specific
demographic information for the audience he or she wants to reach; you
could quickly rise from a promotional products provider to a marketing
expert who is able to recommend the best media vehicles, messages and
eco-friendly promos. Make use of free educational resources, and
consider attending more educational events. Gaining audience knowledge
will place you a step ahead of your competition and make your client’s
eco-friendly promotions more effective.

3. Protect Your Client from Greenwashing

As
a marketing consultant, you should ensure your client is making the
best decisions about eco-friendly promos and communications — and not
greenwashing. Viewed negatively by the LOHAS crowd and others,
greenwashing is any practice to make something appear environmentally
friendly when it is not. “You can equate this to false advertising,”
Chandler explains. When people buy products or services based on false
or misleading attributes, they tend to question their faith and loyalty
to the company, she says.

LOHAS consumers are especially
sensitive to authenticity concerns. “Green individuals are a little
less trusting and will investigate companies to see if they are
greenwashing,” Chandler cautions. When they discover companies are
greenwashing, these comsumers don’t hesitate to pass the word through
their communities, the media and more, which can destroy a company’s
credibility.

To protect your clients from being blacklisted as
greenwashers, first make sure the products or services they’re
advertising are truly green and that they can prove it, if asked. “For
a company to be effective in this green space, transparency is key,”
Chandler advises. Bottom line: they should practice what they preach
and be true to being a green brand. Second, educate your client in
being authentically green. You might share with them a case study that
illustrates how greenwashing (even inadvertently) can affect business.
Finally, dig into business practices surrounding the new product or
service, including how it’s shipped and packaged. If a truly green
product is packaged in Styrofoam, the company still might get pegged as
greenwashers.

Many companies do not understand what it means to
be green and are unaware of the potential to turn off consumers. “They
think something such as recycling allows them to say they are a green
company, where it’s really just a first step in an overall process
toward becoming more environmentally friendly,” Chandler says. “Green
is not a marketing, PR or advertising tactic; it’s a lifestyle for many
consumers. They expect companies to understand that and support their
lifestyle with products and services they can believe in.”

4. Do Your Due Diligence

A
critical part of being a green expert is doing your due diligence to
ensure you’re selling truly eco-friendly products. Many times,
greenwashing happens outside the knowledge of companies trying to
communicate their eco-friendly initiatives, Chandler points out. “While
industry suppliers are advertising eco-friendly products left and
right, on occasion, those products are not as eco-friendly as they
seem,” she says. For instance, a product made of a sustainable material
[such as bamboo or organic cotton] may be less than green if the
manufacturing process creates more waste and toxins than the
non-eco-friendly alternative method. Or, there’s always the possibility
of a supplier misrepresenting its product as green, even if they really
believe it is so. You could lose clients if they hear from one of their
end users that the product you sold them really is not eco-friendly.

Due
diligence means asking for certification or other forms of
documentation from your supplier stating that the product meets green
standards. Always probe a little deeper to ensure that products are
what they claim to be, and share the proof or certification with your
clients. They will appreciate your expertise and feel more confident
purchasing eco-friendly items from you if they know you do your
homework and protect their interests.

5. Call in the Cavalry

Let’s
face it: Even after reading this article, researching and creating
presentation tools, you aren’t going to have every answer about the
LOHAS market, green marketing and eco-friendly certifications. If you
encounter a client who is interested in a large eco-friendly campaign
or who could be accused of greenwashing, consider bringing in an expert
for support. “If a promotional products distributor needs to tactfully
make their clients aware of what it means to be green, there is
research and expertise to support the position,” Chandler says.
“Sometimes, it is easier to bring in an outside expert.”

Because
LOHAS consumers are more involved with the brands they purchase,
Chandler suggests involving an expert for those whose primary focus is
green products and services. “It is critical for both the distributor
and the client to collaborate or consult with an outside expert who is
familiar with this marketplace, if they are not an expert,” she says.
“It’s a tough marketplace to navigate, and it’s less forgiving than a
traditional marketplace. Plus, the ways you communicate, the vehicles
you use to communicate and the market are much different.”

The
more you know about eco-friendly promotional products, LOHAS consumers
and best green business practices, the more value you can offer your
clients. If you take these five tips to heart, you can position
yourself as an expert and set yourself apart from the competition in
green promotions. n

Colette Chandler, a principal at The
Marketing Insider, channels more than 15 years of marketing, public
relations and research experience into dynamic workshops, seminars and
consulting to help companies profit from understanding consumer health
and environmental trends and the consumers who drive them. She will
offer five weeks of webinars on green programs with true value
beginning Sept. 22. For more information, visit
www.marketing-insider.com.

Julie Cajigas is a freelance writer in the promotional products industry. She can be reached at [email protected].

A Greenwashing Case Study

A
company — we’ll call it ABC Co. — was excited to launch its brand-new,
eco-friendly product. The marketing team sent releases to media outlets
and consumers of ABC’s products. A blogger covered the launch and gave
it rave reviews. The company decided to send him a small thank-you gift
to help foster a relationship.

The blogger received the package
a few days later. Much to his surprise, the package was shipped through
a common shipping company via a city more than 100 miles away, despite
ABC being only blocks away. He marveled that ABC, with its new
eco-friendly product, didn’t think to hand-deliver the package to save
fuel and carbon emissions from the shipping. When he opened the
package, he saw it was packed with Styrofoam peanuts.

The
blogger was displeased that ABC promoted a green product with very
un-green means. He roasted the company in his next blog, pointing out
ABC’s environmentally unfriendly business practices and effectively
alienating many LOHAS consumers who were interested in the new product.
Branded as a greenwasher, the company lost potential revenue from the
new product when intensely loyal LOHAS consumers refused to purchase
from a non-eco-friendly company.

 

The LOHAS Demographic

Empower your clients with details on LOHAS consumers. They are: • 60 percent female
• Highly educated
• Average income-earners
• Highly influenced by brand image
• Not price-sensitive
• Very influential over the buying decisions of family and friends

No comments yet... Be the first to leave a reply!

Leave a Reply