Eco-con­scious­ness Chal­lenged

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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

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