Fifty shades of green

How customers define their green views can help manufacturers shape their eco messages

By Kent Panther, VP, Director of Strategic Planning at Wray Ward

According to the latest nationwide research by The Farnsworth Group, given consumers’ varying views of green advantages as well as the skepticism many have regarding green claims, the opportunity for manufacturers to capitalize on an ability to better define green — and to promote its specific benefits — seems clear.

Brad Farnsworth, whose company conducted the study, “How ‘Green’ Are Home Improvement Customers?” summarized it like this: “Clearly, a majority of consumers are receptive to green products, but they need a greater depth of information to encourage purchase — especially information that points out how they will personally benefit from the product. Manufacturers and retailers alike need to spell out what green means. The category is ripe for growth.”

The results of the 500-person study may help guide product manufacturers, especially in refining their communications vehicles and marketing messages.

Not surprisingly, the survey found that respondents fall along a wide continuum, from Ideologues to Anti-Ecos (see chart).

Attitudes toward green, however, may not match consumers’ purchasing behavior. A higher percentage of Anti-Ecos purchased HVAC systems or light bulbs they defined as green as opposed even to Ideologues.

This discrepancy between attitude and actions may be accounted for by different definitions of green. When asked what the term “green” meant to them, nearly half of the survey’s respondents correlated green with “environmentally friendly,” while nearly 20% defined green as “energy saving,” and about the same number thought of green as “recyclable/renewable.”

Moreover, the research showed that consumers are most likely to purchase green products that benefit themselves. In order of priority, factors most likely to influence purchase are energy efficiency, longevity of the product and low maintenance. Perhaps consumers, such as Anti-Ecos, are inclined to buy green products they believe are in their economic self-interest. The way green is defined and its perceived benefits are both essential.

As to the importance of purchasing green products for home remodeling and maintenance projects, about 13% of all respondents feel it is “not at all important,” 56% feel it is “somewhat important,” and 31% are either very near or in the range of saying it is “extremely important.”

While a large majority of consumers show an interest in green products, few feel knowledgeable about the category. Among consumers, 25% fall within the “do not know much” range, 63% consider themselves “somewhat knowledgeable,” and 12% rate themselves as near-experts or experts.

Finally, all consumers should be considered as potential targets for green products regardless of their professed attitudes. 

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