Green Marketing 101: Make Green Second

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Here’s a basic marketing tip: Don’t position your product as green.  Well, not primarily green. Instead, position your products and services first as delivering core consumer benefits then-as a second set of attributes-green. You may even find that your competitors are not onto this savvy positioning strategy.

A couple weeks ago I was looking for examples of this principle. I wanted to show how a company’s marketing message should extend beyond greenness to appeal to other core consumer attributes people expect from a good products.  I put out a query on HARO and received dozens of interesting products.  Of those, five stood out.

The first thing I noticed about Vers iPod Docks is that they are incredibly beautiful.  But, they first thing theat Vers wants you to know about their products is that they sound great. They let the fact that they have been touted as the most environmentally friendly iPod dock available speak for itself and focus instead on the benefits that consumer’s want in a an iPod dock: Great sound and good looks.  In the words of David Laituri, partner in Sprout Creation makers of Vers products:

“We tend to focus on superior sound quality and design, and environmental thoughtfulness a fast second. Since our sustainable design efforts are a work in progress, we avoid ‘green’ and ‘environmentally friendly’ whenever possible.”

Green Toys are made out of recycled milk containers and are made in the USA (so from a supply chain position they are very environmentally sound.) Green Toys are also packaged in recycled corrugated boxes with no plastics, cellophane or twist-ties, and are 100% recyclable. But most importantly, they positioned as safe (they contain no traceable amounts of Phthalates or BPA and have no external coatings with lead paint) and fun (they are chunky and colorful and beg to be played with).

In addition to promoting the absence of the controversial ingredient, aluminum, Tom’s of Maine deodorants are also positioned as safe, natural, long-lasting and highly effective in fighting odor. So the company’s marketing message extends beyond greenness to appeal to other attributes people expect from a good deodorant.

Pentel’s Handy-line S Highlighters have all the features consumers want in a highlighter: They are a compact, retractable, have a chisel tip, and come in assorted colors.  But they are also successfully positioned as green products because—in addition to the core product features—they are made from 54% post consumer recycled plastic, refillable and are branded as part of the Pentel Recycology™ program.  Through marketing, Pentel let’s consumers know that no compromise of product features comes with their green products.

Clean Air Lawn Care is a full-service sustainable lawn care company. They use solar-powered lawn mowers (yes, those are solar panels on the back of that truck!) They offer all the regular lawn services plus grass removal to an organic waste recycling center. But their marketing messages focuses equally on high quality service that yields “beautifully groomed lawns” at competitive prices. They also sell safety with an organic fertilization program which they say ensures a yard is both “beautiful and safe for your children, pets, and waterways.”  Sustainability is a key part of the marketing, but core consumer benefits are at the forefront of their messaging.

As David Laituri told me: “I don’t believe people wake up in the morning and say: ‘I want to spend $200 on a green product today.”  No, they probably don’t. But, if you position your green product intelligently they may want to buy your green product today.



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