Seeing Shades in Green Consumers

This April 22, millions of people around the world will mark a major milestone: the 40th anniversary of Earth Day. And although the premise for Earth Day is still the same, the behaviors, concerns and, most of all, consumer habits of the environmentally conscious have changed dramatically since 1970.

What was once considered the domain of tree huggers, hippies and even fanatics is now a mainstream and accepted cultural lifestyle. From the organic food products in grocery stores and eco-friendly household cleaning products to the latest hybrid cars and energy-saving home appliances, there is an abundance of green choices.

What’s more, long gone are the days of a single defining profile of the green consumer. Today, we see a spectrum of green — stretching from the darkest who are willing to pay a premium for eco-friendly products in order to help stem global warming to the lightest who are primarily interested in saving money on their energy bill, as opposed to saving the planet. In short, green marketing is no longer black and white.

Marketers need to speak directly to each individual shade of green. To that end, NBC Universal — in connection with its Green Is Universal initiative — created distinct profiles of the green consumer. We combined data on their brand preferences (from MRI), their opinions/thoughts about the environment (Natural Marketing Institute) and their attitudes about sustainability (The SHIFT Report, 2010). We then connected that information with what television shows they like to watch (Nielsen).

Understanding these segments is the key to successfully marketing green to the right target audience.

The darkest greens are the Alpha-Ecos, who represent roughly 43 million adults. This group is deeply committed to green causes and saving the planet, and the most likely to be concerned about global warming. They are early adopters of environmentally responsible products (i.e., hybrid autos, organic foods, eco-friendly cleaning products) and most willing to buy them at a premium. Promoting a company or brand’s CSR efforts is a great way to capture the Alpha-Eco’s attention and earn his/her trust.

The Eco-Centrics represent about 34 million U.S. adults and are the second most green segment. They are more concerned about how environmentally responsible products benefit them personally and immediately than they are about abstract, global-level environmental issues. They are willing to pay more for green if they perceive a product is better for their health and well-being. Marketers need to identify ways to help Eco-Centrics make the connection between green actions and healthy outcomes.

The Eco-Chics comprise approximately 57 million adults, the largest of the green segments. While they are not particularly concerned about environmental issues, Eco-Chics understand the cachet of their being seen as green. To reach this younger-skewing segment, marketers should consider ways to connect their environmentally responsible brand with media properties and personalities that are perceived as “influential” and trendy. Leverage social networking sites to give Eco-Chics a forum to show their friends/family just how green they are.
The Economically Ecos are the next largest green segment, representing about 53 million U.S. adults. They are less concerned about saving the planet — and more concerned about saving money. As such, they are willing to pay more for green products as long as they are convinced it will save them money in the long run. This segment hates to waste anything. To that end, the Economically Eco’s green behaviors are driven by practicality (i.e., conserving water, conserving energy, recycling). Marketers should promote products to this segment by highlighting economical, long-lasting and reusability benefits.

Eco-Moms comprise about 33 percent of moms with children under 18. This group is interested in cost-effective and socially responsible practices and products, with an emphasis on kids. Concerned for the environment as well as the health and well-being of her family, the Eco-Mom places high importance on buying products made in an environmentally conscious way. 

@maryamb Maryam Banikarim is head of marketing at Nextdoor, where she leads the marketing, communications and policy and International teams.