The Effects of Green Marketing in Mainstream America

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Does green marketing encourage people to make eco-friendly choices? A recent study by OgilvyEarth says that it often has the opposite effect.

The study called “Mainstream Green: Moving Sustainability from Niche to Normal” provides insight about the green gap—what consumers say they are doing to go green versus what they are actually doing.

This gap is substantial: 82 percent of Americans claimed to have green intentions, but only 16 percent are dedicated to fulfilling these intentions.

  1. Green doesn’t feel “normal,” it feels like a niche: It is perceived that only “hippies” or “rich elitist snobs” go green, not the average American.
  2. Going green is expensive: This means that most Americans feel that they cannot afford to go green.
  3. The green guilt phenomenon: According to the study, nearly half of Americans claim that the more they know about how to live a sustainable lifestyle, the guiltier they feel. Many people will retreat to ignorance to avoid the guilt.
  4. Green is the new pink: About 82 percent of the survey’s respondents considered going green to be feminine rather than masculine.
  5. It’s too complex: Many Americans would know how to begin calculating their carbon footprint. There is also confusion as to whether or not some decisions are greener than others.

And here are 5 ways to “fix” it:

  1. Make it normal: Contrary to popular belief, most people just want to fit in, according to this survey.
  2. Lower prices: Keep the prices comparable to the mainstream brands.
  3. Make green ads more male-friendly: Sleeker ads, packaging, etc…
  4. Lose the stereotypes: Use mainstream packaging, ads, etc..
  5. Educate, educate, educate: As I mentioned in our 7 Green Myths blog post, although many green products are more expensive than their counterparts, it isn’t always the case. Some green habits can even save you money in the long run.

What encourages you to go green?


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Comments (2)

  1. Avatar for Arman Jennifer says:

    This is a terrific summary of the green image problems we face! I agree that stereotyping green into crunchy-yoga-treehugger is not at all helpful. Caring about the planet that we all depend on should not be a pigeonhole. I especially like the idea of normalizing everything. In the UK, fair trade Kit Kat bars are now normal; I could get organic sandwiches even at the train station. No big deal. I might even push that a little further — if we can just get enough people on board, peer pressure will probably do the rest. There are also lots of ways to sell green as having personal benefit (save money, reduce your family’s exposure to chemicals, etc.) that might help.

    Knowledge and guilt are primarily what cause me to make changes. I find out about something I never thought of before and first feel defensive, then guilty, and then do something about it. The problem is getting over the two initial stages. I don’t know what would help other people; it just takes time for me.

    1. Avatar for Arman Amy Erickson says:

      Thank you for your comment Jennifer! Fair trade Kit Kat bars are a great idea– it takes a product that people are used to buying and normalizes it. Most people will stick with what they know. I’d love to see more healthy and organic choices in the stores over here.

      The stages of making a green change are interesting, but that’s how it works for me as well. You go “Oh I’m sure it’s not that big of a deal” to “Maybe I should do it” to “Okay, fine, it is the better choice.”

      And I agree about selling green as a personal benefit. Who doesn’t want to save some money?

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