What drives consumers’ green behaviors, and how does it affect purchase decisions?

Green and socially responsible marketing will continue to be a big part of the conversation in 2012.

When consumers can see how their purchasing power is an opportunity to make an impact on the environment, they become fiscally conscious of how brand choice can go beyond products alone. Companies with ‘do good’ initiatives have successfully honed in on this mindset by allowing consumers to tangibly get involved with spirited causes at point of purchase. However, positively impacting the environment is not the only dynamic at play in these purchase decisions, and understanding not just what consumers say they want -but what they actually do as well – can make green initiatives all the more powerful.

Three years ago Communispace teamed up with Continuum to understand what it meant to Go Green. The research that would become Colorblind: Talking to Consumers about the Environment, spanned over 6,000 participants through in home interviews and Communispace’s online communities. The uncovered consumer mindsets towards the environment were telling:

The environmental choice feels good

  • Consumers want to feel like they are making the responsible, or the “right” choice. They expect companies, government and other individuals to do their part.

BUT … people care about people

  • When faced with a choice, people will first do what makes sense for themselves and their families.
  • Companies cannot rely on a promise of “good for the environment” to drive choice. They need to make it clear why their offering is better at the household level.

The environment and our impact upon it tend to be abstract ideas

  • Tangible actions are embraced, especially when both the problem and the positive results of its solution are visible.

People relate to the environment in ways that are different and multi-dimensional

  • People might be very green in some ways but not others.

Fast forward a few years and companies who listened to these mindsets are currently inviting consumers to have a direct impact on the environment through their brands. These collaborations have led to successful businesses and happy customers.

TOMS and Warby Parker have splashed into the ‘do-gooder’ space by allowing consumers to get involved at the purchase phase of consumption. TOMS allows you to stride with style and satisfaction, knowing that a child in need has a pair of shoes on his/her feet. Similarly, Warby Parker sells you eyewear with the knowledge that by sporting your trendy specs you’ve supplied someone in need of vision correction, the gift of sight through glasses. Both TOMS and Warby Parker engage consumers through a buy one give one mentality, a mindset people can easily connect with at a household level, but they both also clearly define the value that buyer’s are getting with their products.

Customers can only be aware of what they can see.

By allowing consumers to see and be a part of how brands can go beyond products alone, companies open the door for pairing passion with dual utility. When brands meet shoppers at the purchasing point of consumption they have the opportunity to make consumers aware of how their choices can positively creative tangible environmental impacts.

Stay tuned for the second part of this exploration to hear how one brand has successfully connected with shoppers and the environment not just at the purchase and use stage, but at the disposal phase of consumption as well.

Colorblind: Talking to Consumers About the Environment is a groundbreaking cross-industry study of the “green” attitudes and behaviors of consumers across the country, assessing not just what they say they want, but what they actually do, and providing actionable insights for business in general as well as specific industry verticals. Download the study for free.

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