Why Greens hate hard-sell



Imagine going down the road in your eco-friendly hybrid car (or better yet, your public transit conveyance or your bicycle), listening to some earnest musician\’s song about global warming. All of a sudden, this commercial is screaming at you:

Go green today! Act NOW to lock in your savings! Call 800-555-CASH or visit www.CashBackEnergySavings.com. That\’s 800-555-CASH or www.CashBackEnergySavings.com (note: phone and URL are fictional.

How do you feel about this loud, intrusive interruption?

Guess what—that\’s exactly how your prospects feel when they encounter hypey, in-your-face green marketing. And they tune it out. In fact, even well outside the green sector, obnoxious marketing is a lot less effective than it used to be. We have hundreds of thousands of sources for information now, and when one of them gets annoying, we leave.

Yes, there are companies out there doing this sort of thing—but no, it doesn\’t work very well.

Even more than the public as a whole, most segments of the green market are turned off by screamy hype. People who are drawn to green products and green lifestyles perceive themselves as thoughtful and intelligent, sorting out a range of competing (and sometimes conflicting) benefits and demerits to make choices that are good for the earth, and also good for themselves, their family, and their

And they are hungry for tools that help them make those decisions. They will demand that you provide the information they need in order to thoroughly evaluate for themselves whether your claims make sense and whether your offering is right for them. They will spend time reading articles, poring over back pages of websites, checking out your endorsements and testimonials, watching informational videos, scanning social media and blog feeds…and, especially, discussing planned major purchases with a cadre of trusted friends and associates.

To make it even more challenging, different sectors within that great big green market will bring different motivations and needs, and respond differently to the same marketing.

Let\’s look at one hypothetical typical green family. Children\’s health may be the primary concern of the mom, while her husband worries about the soaring cost of heating their home. His mother, who lives with them, has poor circulation and is cold all the time. The teenage daughter wants to make sure the workers involved are paid fair wages for harvesting the crops, but her younger brother is trying to find organic food that tastes good and doesn\’t seem weird to his classmates. If you try to reach all of these very different
constituencies with the same marketing message, all of them will ignore you.

One way around that is to do different marketing pieces for each segment; Volkswagen and Apple are two companies that have always done that pretty well. Apple, for instance, markets one set of benefits to graphic artists, a different set to educators, and entirely different ones for musicians and film production people.

But for smaller companies, that approach may be expensive. A better alternative might be to incorporate multiple marketing messages into the same communication. Offer multiple pages on a website or brochure, multiple sections in a retail store, different series of informational documents aimed at different audiences.

For instance, a manufacturer of energy-efficient window quilts might create a website landing page offering the option to click to separate pages for high-end builders (looking for luxury features to differentiate their houses from others), interior designers (all about style), landlords (concerned with cost and appearance, and homeowners (balancing savings, durability, and their fashion statement). And those pages, in turn can subdivide by other interest areas.

Or, going back to our imaginary family, the company can market not only by professional affiliation but also by the particular interest. So a different landing page might have links with titles like:

  • How our window quilts can keep your family healthy and lower your medical bills (the mom will read that one)
  • Why you\’re probably throwing away up to $800 every winter—through your windows (dad)
  • The inside story of why we use only fair-trade cotton and how it\’s working miracles in the farming villages where we work (daughter)
  • Looking to have the coolest room in town? Check out these awesome designs (son)
  • How to stay nice and cozy-warm this winter without putting on a second and third sweater (that page is for grandma)

Next month, we\’ll look at the one of the best kinds of non-hype marketing: positioning yourself as the knowledgeable, helpful expert.

Shel Horowitz, shel at greenandprofitable.com, shows you how to “reach green, socially conscious consumers with marketing that has THEM
calling YOU.” He writes the Green And Profitable column and is the primary author of Guerrilla Marketing Goes Green (John Wiley & Sons,