Seeing Shades in Green Consumers

Mediaweek logo MediaWeek examines the changed landscape of green consumers since the first Earth Day in 1970. The marketplace itself is larger and green products have made their way into the mainstream. In addition, marketers and businesses recognize that there is more than one type of green consumer and are building different messages into their brands as a result.

Posted Apr. 18, 2010
By Maryam Banikarim, MediaWeek

This April 22, millions of people around the world will mark a
major milestone: the 40th anniversary of Earth Day. And although
the premise for Earth Day is still the same, the behaviors,
concerns and, most of all, consumer habits of the environmentally
conscious have changed dramatically since 1970.

What was once considered the domain of tree huggers, hippies and
even fanatics is now a mainstream and accepted cultural lifestyle.
From the organic food products in grocery stores and eco-friendly
household cleaning products to the latest hybrid cars and
energy-saving home appliances, there is an abundance of green

What’s more, long gone are the days of a single defining profile of
the green consumer. Today, we see a spectrum of green—stretching
from the darkest who are willing to pay a premium for eco-friendly
products in order to help stem global warming to the lightest who
are primarily interested in saving money on their energy bill, as
opposed to saving the planet. In short, green marketing is no
longer black and white.

Marketers need to speak directly to each individual shade of green.
To that end, NBC Universal—in connection with its Green Is
Universal initiative—created distinct profiles of the green
consumer. We combined data on their brand preferences (from MRI),
their opinions/thoughts about the environment (Natural Marketing
Institute) and their attitudes about sustainability (The SHIFT
Report, 2010). We then connected that information with what
television shows they like to watch (Nielsen).

Understanding these segments is the key to successfully marketing
green to the right target audience.

The darkest greens are the Alpha-Ecos, who represent roughly 43
million adults. This group is deeply committed to green causes and
saving the planet, and the most likely to be concerned about global
warming. They are early adopters of environmentally responsible
products (i.e., hybrid autos, organic foods, eco-friendly cleaning
products) and most willing to buy them at a premium. Promoting a
company or brand’s CSR efforts is a great way to capture the
Alpha-Eco’s attention and earn his/her trust.

The Eco-Centrics represent about 34 million U.S. adults and are the
second most green segment. They are more concerned about how
environmentally responsible products benefit them personally and
immediately than they are about abstract, global-level
environmental issues. They are willing to pay more for green if
they perceive a product is better for their health and well-being.
Marketers need to identify ways to help Eco-Centrics make the
connection between green actions and healthy outcomes.

The Eco-Chics comprise approximately 57 million adults, the largest
of the green segments. While they are not particularly concerned
about environmental issues, Eco-Chics understand the cachet of
their being seen as green. To reach this younger-skewing segment,
marketers should consider ways to connect their environmentally
responsible brand with media properties and personalities that are
perceived as “influential” and trendy. Leverage social networking
sites to give Eco-Chics a forum to show their friends/family just
how green they are.

The Economically Ecos are the next largest green segment,
representing about 53 million U.S. adults. They are less concerned
about saving the planet—and more concerned about saving money. As
such, they are willing to pay more for green products as long as
they are convinced it will save them money in the long run. This
segment hates to waste anything. To that end, the Economically
Eco’s green behaviors are driven by practicality (i.e., conserving
water, conserving energy, recycling). Marketers should promote
products to this segment by highlighting economical, long-lasting
and reusability benefits.

Eco-Moms comprise about 33 percent of moms with children under 18.
This group is interested in cost-effective and socially responsible
practices and products, with an emphasis on kids. Concerned for the
environment as well as the health and well-being of her family, the
Eco-Mom places high importance on buying products made in an
environmentally conscious way.  

For instance, she is most likely to buy organic foods and green
cleaners. To reach the Eco-Mom, marketers should consider ways that
a product can benefit the entire family as well as help save the
earth for future generations to enjoy.  

Connecting this qualitative data with quantitative numbers enables
NBCU to offer clients an audience targeting tool—recommending
specific media properties that effectively reach these green
consumer segments.

Ultimately, in this environment, finding consumers where their
reception to your brand message takes root is invaluable.

Maryam Banikarim is svp, NBCU Integrated Sales and Marketing,
the group that spearheads cross-platform media initiatives. Janet
Gallent, NBCU’s vp, Consumer Insights/Innovation Research,
contributed to this column.

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