Green marketing often fails to generate significant revenue because it focuses too narrowly on how the product will benefit the environment instead of how it will benefit the consumer. Our research shows that if you keep a broader market in mind, you can generate more revenue.
For example, Tide Coldwater achieved rapid consumer adoption by emphasizing the mainstream value of cost savings. Organic foods have become popular because they are marketed as healthier and safer. Front-loading washing machines appeal to mainstream consumers for their lower operating costs and cleaning power. Companies promoting solar-powered gadgets reach more people when they talk about how convenient it is to never have to purchase new batteries.
Much of the popularity of the Toyota Prius stems from its high-tech status. Austin Energy in Texas lets consumers know that with wind power they can lock-in their utility rates, so their bills won't go up as fossil fuel prices climb. General Electric's tagline for its compact fluorescent lights proclaims "long life for hard-to-reach places" to communicate that the resource-efficient bulb's five-year life is simply convenient.
When we developed an outreach campaign to promote wind power in 2003, instead of an environmental message, we advertised how wind power development could generate property tax revenues for schools. Billboards showing children running through a wind park and publicizing that "wind power can fund schools" drew thousands of hits onto the Utah Energy Office's Web site and encouraged the state legislature to pass economic incentives for wind power development. Connecting wind power to core Utah values - children and schools - made wind energy more appealing to policymakers and citizens as an economic opportunity.
Marketing professors Cathy Hartman and Edwin Stafford are co-directors of the Center for the Market Diffusion of Renewable Energy and Clean Technology (www.cleantech.usu.edu) at the Jon M. Huntsman School of Business at Utah State University.
Originally posted in the September issue of Utah CEO.