Last week, I had the opportunity to witness a milestone being reached in the effort to fight global warming: officials from 18 states – representing a majority of the US population – signed an agreement at Yale University that committed their states to action on global warming.
While some states like California and New Jersey have already put formal carbon reduction targets into place, this agreement clearly reflects growing national support for action.
Governor Jon Corzine of New Jersey Signing the Governor’s Declaration
Governor Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas Addressing the Conference
Marketers should take careful note. Shifting political winds are more than a sign that legislation is on the horizon; they also may reflect a change in consumer sentiment that is fueling them.
For marketers, three themes emerged that they should consider:
The time is running short for companies to be first movers on green. Conference participants expressed their belief that action on global warming was all but inevitable with a new administration – regardless of party affiliation. As such, the window of opportunity is closing for brands to be an early mover on green. Once Congress mandates change, it will take more effort for a company to convince consumers of their green authenticity than if they did so now on their own volition. (See also Marketing Green’s “Waning Opportunity to be Early Mover on Green”).
Consumer perceptions of green are evolving. The image of environmentalists as tree huggers is fading. In fact, Governor Schwarzenegger claimed that being an environmentalist today is “hip, cutting edge, self-confident, sexy”. What more could companies want when it comes marketing green?
Governor Schwarzenegger at the Conference
Brands must adapt to changing consumer sentiment on green. As consumer attitudes on green evolve, companies must also reposition their brands to maintain relevance with consumers. Marketers should note that at least two factors will help accelerate this shift in consumer sentiment.
First, Al Gore’s Alliance for Climate Protection is launching a 3-year, $300MM campaign to propel consumers to take action on climate change.
Second, consumers may use their purchasing power to influence corporate behavior on green. While Americans are voracious consumers, they do not like to do so at the expense of others. For example, the vast majority of Americans are firm believers in child labor and worker safety laws.
Today, headlines focus on food shortages and the civil unrest that it has caused in many poor nations. Corporations that are perceived to be perpetuating food shortages through their activities (eg, competing with local farmers for water rights, promoting the use of biofuels that divert cropland away from food production) may feel the wrath of consumers that use their purchases to express their opinions. (See also Marketing Green’s “Green May Be Ho Hum for the Holidays But It’s Here to Stay”).
For marketers, such undercurrents are important to monitor closely. Consumer sentiment is shifting and will inevitably reach a tipping point. Smart companies will take action ahead of time to avoid ending up on the wrong side of the line.