The economic recession appeared to challenge the ecoconsciousness of green consumers and it proved to be fickle. The claim has been made on the downturn in purchases of green products. According to David Donnan, a partner in the consumer products consulting firm A.T. Kearney, there is a discrepancy between what people show they believe in and what they actually do. For instance, as Donnan elaborates, “Every consumer says, ‘I want to help the environment, I’m looking for eco-friendly products’. But if it’s one or two pennies higher in price, they’re not going to buy it.”
Generally, green products are more expensive because the ingredients tend to cost more than their more conventional counterparts and transportation costs are higher too because they are sold in smaller volumes than the big brands. It was observed that the introduction of a green dishwashing liquid followed the pattern of 14 introductions in 2007, 85 in 2008 and then 58 in 2009.
This can be a matter of concern at the consumers’ end but in this same recession era some of the major manufacturers pulled back on advertising too. To quote an article on ‘Marketing in the economic crunch’ in Slogan magazine, “Research conducted by the Harvard Business Review shows that companies wish continue to communicate with their consumers during economic downturns actually increased their growth while companies failing to do so experienced drops in sales and profits.” What can easily be inferred is that as the green product companies took a back seat and regarded marketing as merely superfluous, the general public also started to perceive green products as a trend of only ‘good times’. In addition, a number of green consumers regard the influence of green advertising as major for their buying decision.
Moreover, according to marketing researchers, many green purchases are rooted in the evolutionary idea of competitive altruism; people compete for status by trying to appear more altruistic with green products. This can be the reason why online shopping of green products is not more than 5 percent, where others cannot witness the noble deed. If advertising taps on this tendency rather than the pricing it may suppress the fears of economic recession.
To the contrary, as far as pricing of green products is concerned, a survey by Ketchum’s green marketing group reveals that the majority of green actions taken by Americans are focused on ways to save money, versus doing it for the environment or out of the kindness of their heart. David Chapman, head of Ketchum’s green marketing group, says, “Unless green products are meeting consumers’ economic bottom line, the social and environmental bottom lines will take a hit.” The majority of people are comfortable shopping for locally grown food from the farmers’ market, as they are simultaneously promoting organic food and enjoying easy pricing.
Thus, in a challenging economy with varied view points, green marketers must be transparent with claims and use easy-to-understand, proven information to build trust with consumers. This view is based on the majority of consumers being critical about certifications or seal of approval while shopping for eco-friendly products.
For meeting the competition, brands may utilize either of the strategies suitable to their products; marketing based on saving money or conserving altruism. But only special bonding with the consumers can keep them in the buying loop. At the end what brings consumers, is the product’s reputation and brand loyalty