Marketing green to the wired generation

Shelton group logo Adam Kustin, VP of Client Consultation at the Shelton Group discusses the appropriate methods for communicating green to the 18-24 year old age group. Social media is only the 4th resource this group uses to get information, and that they're surprisingly more likely to check out ads, product labels or news coverage. According to the article, they're about as likely to find out about green products through a friend's recommendation as through an internet search.

Posted January 6, 2010
By Adam Kustin, The Shelton Group

A word to the wise from our Vice President of Client Consultation, Adam Kustin:

We recently completed the research phase of a marketing plan for a
client who engages millions of consumers each week through their
existing lines of business. The client will be launching a new
initiative in the green products space; therefore, a component of the
research focused on the role or importance of media when learning about
green products.

One of the age segments we focused on was 18 – 24 year-olds.  When
imagining how this segment consumes media or gathers information, one
would guess that the Internet – and, likely, social media sites – would
be the number one resource.  Or at least second.  Or definitely no
lower than third.

How about fourth?

According to our research, this wireless, hyper-connected,
rather-text-than-talk age group relies on ads, product labels and news
coverage for its green product information before performing a search
on the Internet.  So what gives?  Is this a harbinger of the eventual
demise of the Internet?  Hardly.

The commonality between the first three mediums is that they are
relatively passive or low involvement.  Ads and news, through any
channel, do not require the recipient to do anything – except of course
listen, read and absorb.  Product labels may fit in the same category
if green claims are on the front selling panel (our survey did not
differentiate between a selling panel and an ingredient panel).

Another finding from our research is that about the same number of
respondents said they learn about green products from friends or
relatives as from an Internet search.  We presume that a sizable
proportion of these recommendations come from social media sites. 
Again, a lower incidence than we would have thought.

In general, this age group is interested in green products but is not actively pursuing
information on green products as much as we might believe.  An Internet
search can only be categorized as active.  And word-of-mouth (online or
not) MAY be active.  Over time, we’ve all gotten unsolicited advice
from friends – this would hold true in green products.

So what are the implications here?  For starters, green claims are
not enough.  Nearly all consumers, not just 18-24 year-olds, want
products and services that satisfy universal needs such as comfort,
wellness and convenience.  Positioning green products within those
parameters will elevate interest and drive consumption. As importantly,
these claims and benefits must be actively promoted with the same
diligence and discipline that traditional products require.  The idea
that social marketing will simply create gravity for green products
does not hold water.  Old-fashioned advertising and well-designed
packaging are critical and should be the first steps in a green
marketing program to ensure success.  Even if your target is the wired
generation.

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