Three Lessons for Fulfilling on a Green Brand Promise

When it comes to the environment, consumer behavior can be inconsistent or even a bit hypocritical.  Two-car families will buy a hybrid and a gas guzzling SUV.  Parents will teach their kids to turn off the water while brushing, but take a few extra minutes in the shower to enjoy the peace and quiet.  Somehow, we tend to overlook our own inconsistencies, while holding others accountable for their actions.

Perhaps, then, it should not be surprising that consumers tend to be less forgiving of a brand’s missteps than their own.  They are quick to assume green washing regardless of good intensions.

Why is it that consumers hold green brands to a higher standard than they do themselves?

It is not an easy question to answer.  Certainly, as human beings, we have a harder time taking stock of our own actions than another’s.  But, the distinction goes further.

First, consumers turn to brands as a form of self-expression based on who they are today, or who they ideally want to be.  For consumers to do so, brands need to clearly articulate what they believe in and be consistent in how they express these beliefs.  Arguably, this is especially important for green brands, as most mainstream consumers tend to be less familiar with them or how they benefit the environment.  As a result, consumers tend to rely more heavily on green brands for guidance when making purchase decisions.

Second, consumers expect green brands to deliver on promised reductions in environmental impact.  When they don’t, consumers feel disappointed that expectations are not met, or frustrated because, despite good intensions, they are not able to make a positive impact that they anticipated.

A recent personal example:

For the past year, I have turned to OZOcar, the eco-friendly car service, to help me reduce my eco-impact from business travel.  On one recent occasion, OZOcar ran out of cars and farmed my ride out to one of several livery companies in its network.  Instead of a Prius, the vehicle that arrived was a gas-guzzling Suburban.  An eco-friendly car service providing about the least eco-friendly ride.   In marketing terms, the Suburban was off brand.

While this was not part of my typical experience with OZOcar, it offered clear lessons for all brands:

Be clear about what a brand promise is and isn’t.  Brands should set clear expectations about their brand promise.  For example, it is not unreasonable for a small company like OZOcar to send a gas-powered substitute – preferably a sedan instead of an SUV – when its fleet is being fully used.  That said, brands should clearly set expectations upfront so that consumers know what to expect and are not free to interpret perceived (or actual) inconsistencies in their own way.

Fulfill on a brand promise, or modify the promise.  A customer service manager at OZOcar did offer to change my individual profile to state that I did not want to be picked up in an SUV.  I asked if they would consider changing their policy so that their network would not send SUVs to any OZOcar customers.  They said that they would look into it.

Know how consumers perceive a brand. What matters most is not what a brand says about itself, but how consumers perceive it.  As such, marketers should stay abreast of how consumers perceive their brand by soliciting feedback during customer interactions or monitoring (and perhaps joining) online conversations in social media.  This will enable a brand to quickly adjust its messaging – or its offering – to reinforce its brand promise.

8 Responses to Three Lessons for Fulfilling on a Green Brand Promise

  1. Wonderful insights. The main principle when dealing with sustainable topics is to maintain honesty and transparency. I think this applies to most aspects of the green industry, and not just csr. Cheers!

    Juan Miguel Ruiz (Going Green)
    http://www.GreenJoyment.com

  2. […] moss and river rocks. Best of all, both tables are handmade, mostly from reclaimed materials. Three Lessons for Fulfilling on a Green Brand Promise When it comes to the environment, consumer behavior can be inconsistent or even a bit hypocritical. […]

  3. Arif Rabbi says:

    Bringing the great topic to discuss.The discussion can go along only if the green industries not only go green, but also do green, think green and eat green, collaborate communities with environment. I think all this things are interrelated philosophically.

  4. hopeschaitkin says:

    We at The Green Life Online agree with your message about following through on brand and marketing promises. In fact, we recently published our Don’t Be Fooled report, in which we highlighted some of the biggest greenwashing offenders, hoping to encourage consumers to hold the greenwashers accountable, and lead the way to a more sustainable economy in our future! If you want to check it out, and share your thoughts, check it out here http://wp.me/p2h3OV-hN and thank you for writing!

  5. Great information on this site thanks for sharing!
    Take Care

  6. […] Marketing Green Posted on: January 29th, 2012 No […]

  7. kwXNTWQfcUIFEiWfna 9739

  8. lienss says:

    lienss

    Three Lessons for Fulfilling on a Green Brand Promise | Marketing Green

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: