Jacquelyn A. Ottman is a pioneer in green marketing with over 20 years of experience in helping companies develop and market products with sustainability in mind. Her new book, The New Rules of Green Marketing: Strategies, Tools, and Inspiration for Sustainable Branding, is the cumulation of her vast consulting experience and previous books on green marketing. The book is more than a marketing book, it is a practical guide that covers the necessary strategies for a business to successfully embrace and integrate sustainability into its brands.
In the book, Jacquelyn shares that green is now mainstream and can be made up of different segments of green consumers. In the United States, 83% of adults can be considered at least some “shade” of green, and they enjoy a lifestyle where sustainable choices are accessible, attractive and readily available in retail and online stores. The green market is here to stay, and will also grow and mature, and thus changing the the rules of engagement further.
Jacquelyn explains that green consumers can be segmented by lifestyle orientation and their green commitment. For example, the Natural Marketing Institute (NMI) segments green consumers as LOHAS (most environmentally conscious, holistically oriented, and active); Naturalites (believe in healthy lifestyle and mind–body–spirit philosophies); Drifters (driven by trends more than by deeply held beliefs); Conventionals (driven to green for practical reasons); or Unconcerneds (demonstrate the least environmental responsibility).
She also describes another segmentation by green interests such as Resource Conservers (hate waste); Health Fanatics (worry about environmental impacts on personal health); Animal Lovers (passionate about all animals); or Outdoor Enthusiasts (love the outdoors and actively engaged in outdoor activities). Regardless of their level of environmental concerns, green consumers are still motivated by universal needs, including the need to take control, get information, make a difference, maintain their lifestyle, and look smart.
In light of the new paradigm with green as mainstream and with increased awareness and different needs of the green consumers, marketers would have to look at new strategies to develop products that have less environmental and social impacts, and satisfy the needs for quality, performance, affordability, and convenience, and also to create demand for the products through credible and values-driven communications.
Jacquelyn describes seven winning strategies for green marketing:
- Understand the deeply held environmental and social beliefs and values of your consumers and other stakeholders and develop a long-term plan to align with them.
- Create new products and services that balance consumers’ desires for quality, convenience, and affordability with minimal adverse environmental and social impacts over the life of the product.
- Develop brands that offer practical benefits while empowering and engaging consumers in meaningful ways about the important issues that affect their lives.
- Establish credibility for your efforts by communicating your corporate commitment and striving for complete transparency.
- Be proactive. Go beyond what is expected from stakeholders. Proactively commit to doing your share to solve emerging environmental and social problems – and discover competitive advantage in the process.
- Think holistically. Underscore community with users and with the broad array of corporate environmental and societal stakeholders.
- Don’t quit. Promote responsible product use and disposal practices. Continuously strive for “zero” impact.
Companies can start by designing greener products based on a life-cycle approach, and examine the environmental issues involved, such as sustainable harvesting and mining practices; recycled content; reduce toxicity; responsible manufacturing practices; energy and water efficient; and safe for disposal. Companies can also innovate for sustainability and develop new products and services with significantly less environmental impacts.
Jacquelyn shares that good green marketing allows consumers to be aware of and concerned about the issues; feel empowered to act; know what is in it for them; afford any premiums and feel they are worth it; believe the claims by the brand; and find the brand easily. Therefore, sustainable marketing communication should focus on the following:
- Know your customer
- Appeal to consumers’ self-interest
- Educate and empower
- Reassure on performance
- Engage the community
- Be credible
While marketing green products, it is also important to avoid greenwashing or the act of overstating or false claims on the environmental attributes of products and services. Jacquelyn advises companies to establish credibility for their green marketing campaign and minimise greenwashing by walking the talk; being transparent; not misleading; enlisting the support of third parties; and promoting responsible consumption.
As the marketplace become greener and consumers demand for more sustainable products and services, businesses have to start building authentic and sustainable brands. The journey will be difficult for most companies, but luckily they can navigate better with the checklists and tips from Jacquelyn’s practical and valuable book on green marketing.