The WIIFM factor and green marketing



When marketing green products and services to an eco-conscious audience, the most important question may be \”How does this help the planet?\”

But if you also want to reach people who are not committed greens, the most important question for them will be \”What\’s in it for me?\”
In the marketing world, \”What\’s in it for me?\” is often abbreviated as WIIFM. And since in the eastern half of the United States, radio station names are usually a group of four letters beginning with W—though some stations have three or five characters, some marketers joke that WIIFM is \”your prospect\’s favorite radio station\”; and you have to tune in if you want the sale.

Most of the time, you will want your marketing to reach both green and non-green markets—so that means you should be answering both questions, and answering them well. You want your marketing to convince these prospects that they and the planet will both be better off dealing with you and buying your offerings.

In other words, you want to combine planetary interest with self-interest.

That means, you might have to focus on such attributes as…

The \”cool\” factor (a rooftop hydroponic garden, a sleek stainless steel reusable water bottle)

Luxury or sportiness (how about the Tesla roadster, an electric car that looks like a Ferrari)

Saving money (two-sided printers can save you about 40 percent of your paper costs)

Comfort (better insulation or a much more efficient heating/air conditioning system means an end to cold and drafty winter nights, and some relief from sweltering summer days)

Better health while getting close to nature (walking or running shoes, bicycles)

Better health through avoiding toxics (natural cleaning and personal care products, organic clothing)

Helping businesses and individuals comply with laws and regulations (as regulations continue to tighten, and to cover new areas such as Cradle-to-Cradle waste recovery, products and services that keep materials out of the waste stream, eliminate harmful chemicals, or reduce water and energy use will grow in popularity)

Higher quality (buying local organic fruits and veggies and other gourmet foods from a farmers market, specialty store, or Community Supported Agriculture farm—once you\’ve tasted the incredible burst of flavor from a locally grown, vine-ripened tomato, a hand-crafted cheese, or even a small-batch brewery beer, you may not ever want to buy the poor imitations at the supermarket)

How green is your customer? Outside of the super-green product arena where people really do make their purchase decisions to help the world (and are even willing to pay extra to get it), most people are going to fall somewhere in the middle of a continuum. Many people will buy a green offering if it\’s comparable in price, quality, and experience, but won\’t pay much extra or incur extra inconvenience. If it\’s better than the conventional alternative, the sale is even easier.

Thus, if you can show that your t-shirts made from recycled soda bottles are at least as comfortable, durable, and affordable as a conventional non-organic cotton t-shirt, you should get the sale.

If you can show how your architect and your construction company can build a house so well insulated it doesn\’t need a furnace or air conditioner, using the savings to cover the cost of the energy improvements, you should get the sale

Combining self-interest with planetary interest means your marketing not only reaches both the green and non-green audiences, but it reaches them with both messages at the same time.

And thus, they will appeal strongly to people the audiences all along that continuum:

1. Deep greens who feel guilty unless they can make an environmentally friendly choice
2. People who are willing to go green, but not willing to inconvenience themselves (these are the folks in the middle)
3. Those who don\’t care about green and may even be hostile, but recognize the superiority of your product

Once you\’ve gone green while maintaining or increasing those qualities your buyers seek, your next job is to create marketing that tells that story, shows how your product or service is the most sensible and most exciting choice. (You\’ll find a lot of advice on that in my latest book, Guerrilla Marketing Goes Green.)

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