Cracking The Green Code

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EcoAlign, the group that brought you the research that found that consumers pay attention to the ENERGY STAR label, just released their third report of the Project Energy Code series, Cracking the Green Code. This report, like other EcoAlign research is a provocative and thought-provoking exploration of the “causes and consequences of effective communications in the energy and environmental space.”

The report starts by saying that marketers “are cracking their proverbial heads open trying to figure out new ways to make green behaviors more enticing to the masses.”  While I’m not so sure marketers are trying to make behaviors more enticing (aren’t we trying to make our products and services more enticing to consumers who behave in a relatively predictable way….), I do find consumer reports of “greenness” and the paradoxically non-green behaviors they exhibit perplexing; hence, the “green gap.”  But, in this report EcoAlign suggests that green messaging can be effective for about 75% of the US Population.

In this study, EcoAlign (many of whose clients are utilities) classified utility consumers in four groups and then analyzed three (the forth group was not sufficiently represented in the research group.) Although the report focuses on utility consumers, it seems reasonable to assume the analysis can be extended to all consumers: 

  1. The Individualistic Consumer (estimated 30% of U.S. population). These are consumers who are self-centered and primarily concerned with the financial bottom-line.  It is suggested that no-nonsense fiscally responsible products and services that provide a sense of control over energy and energy-related financial expenditures (and all green consumer behavior?) is likely to get their attention if properly messaged.
  2. The Humanistic Consumer (estimated 30% of U.S. population) These are consumers who are intellectually concerned with cost, but also  driven by the emotional or human factors. Communication is vital with these consumers—the more human and authentic the better. These people don’t just want products and services, but rather they  want “a relationship with a socially-conscious company who they feel shares their aspiration to making the world a better place.”
  3. The Systemic Consumer (estimated 10-15% of U.S. population). Pragmatic consumers who are primarily concerned with the so-called “triple bottom-line.” When communicating with these customers, it is “helpful to demonstrate a desire to contribute through innovation and personally empowering programs with a both a financial and community focus.”  Basically, these consumers respond when a company treats sustainability is the lens through which all things are seen.

The report goes on to provide tactical and strategic messaging advice and opportunities, which I will leave you to read in the details of the report:

Suggestion #1: Frame offerings to suit the perceived needs of specific value segments; 

Suggestion #2: Whenever possible, build trust by engaging and overcoming cynicism; 

Suggestion #3: Shift from content to context;

Suggestion #4: Shift from demographics to psychographics;

Opportunity #1:  Diagnose your troublemakers and turn them into converts; 

Opportunity #2: Redesign enrollment programs from the values perspective; 

Opportunity #3: Enhance your existing customer segmentation model.

EcoAlign is also hosting a free web cast to discuss the report findings and recommendationValues-Based Model to Improve Customer Communications and Marketing on Wednesday, April 29 from 3 – 4 p.m. EST with the report author, John Marshall Roberts. 



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