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Green Consumer Research Outlines the Challenge

Yankelovich’s "Going Green" explores the impact of the current green movement in the marketplace.

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Environmental Attitudes and Behaviors

Concern about environmental issues is running high in the country today, but people are notorious for espousing pro-environmental attitudes and intentions that never translate into changes in lifestyle or purchasing patterns.

21% of consumers say they
plan to calculate their
carbon footprint in the next year.
Yankelovich’s Perspective "Going Green" examines this disconnect and explores the impact of the current green movement in the marketplace. 37 percent of consumers feel "highly concerned" about environmental issues,

...but only 25 percent feel highly knowledgeable about environmental issues.

...and only 22 percent feel they can make a difference when it comes to the environment.

Yankelovich has developed a consumer segmentation model, dividing the marketplace into five groups (in declining order of commitment):

  • Greenthusiasts (13 percent of the U.S. population, or more than 30 million consumers),
  • Greenspeaks (15 percent),
  • Greensteps (25 percent),
  • Greenbits (19 percent)
  • and the biggest group, Greenless (29 percent)

Yankelovich's segmentations are based both on attitudes and actual behaviors, which sets them apart from most others, which are based only on attitudes. This is where things get interesting. According to the research, green behaviors and attitudes often take divergent paths -- green attitudes don't always predict green behavior, and green behaviors often occur without accompanying attitudes. Example: Greenbits consumers say they are more inclined to pay more than Greenspeaks consumers for green products, but their behavior doesn't sync up -- they buy these products less frequently than the Greenspeak-ers.

Green marketers are faced with the task of addressing attitudes as well as behaviors. This study indicates that the best tactics are targeted. For example, says Smith, if you're trying to change the behaviors of Greenless and Greenbits consumers, increasing their knowledge has nothing to do with it. "It is strictly a matter of making it personally relevant," he says. "This is the group that is most likely to think that the media are making things seem worse than they really are."

Mushiness Index by Daniel Yankelovich

The Mushiness Index is a device developed by Daniel Yankelovich measures the firmness of opinion on a topic -- the degree to which consumers are comfortable and sure about how they think.

When it comes to the environment, opinions are pretty mushy, Yankelovich found. "The vast majority of people don't have very well-articulated views of the environment. They can answer an overnight public opinion poll. But that's not an answer they can necessarily talk about in-depth or understand the costs and consequences about those things. Even something like global warming, where there's been a lot of talk, the distribution of opinion is not very firm," says Yankelovich.

Green Marketing Insights

There are more good marketing insights here. Watch a one-hour webinar on the Yankelovich study here (registration required).

According to Joel Makower's analysis of the report, "The bottom line is that there is no one-size-fits-all marketing strategy when it comes to green. That may seem like common sense, but such wisdom seems to elude most marketers, who still insist on pushing out marketing efforts that are variously too vague, too technical, or way too -- well, mushy."

DATE: August, 2007

Edited by Carolyn Allen, owner/editor of California Green Solutions
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