Is green brand perception worth the effort?

Here’s the thing, positioning yourself as a “green” brand, can most definitely offer a competitive edge but it has to be done in the right way.  

Do consumers actually care about being green?

A recent published study by TNS global revealed that the vast majority of individuals (95 per cent) say protecting the environment is important to them personally. However, overall there is a general public feeling of disempowerment when it comes to environmental issues, people want to do their part and feel good about themselves, but are also aware that the small amount they can do is unlikely to make a significant difference and a large part of the responsibility lies with governments and businesses.

The study found that whilst consumers want to be more eco-friendly in their purchases, this is often a consideration secondary to price. Furthermore, there is some scepticism as to whether environmental products are as effective as their less-green counter parts.

Green attributes can often be a deciding factor when price and performance of competing products are equivalent – so being perceived as green can offer a competitive edge. What’s more, the study found that once a greener product was initially purchased it tended to lead to brand loyalty demonstrated through repurchase.

Be green, but don’t compromise on price and quality

So, you need to find a way to deliver a greener product/service and ensure that this does not result in a significant price increase or diminished quality. Consumers’ primary concerns are price and functionality of the product or quality of the service – if these are compromised, even for the sake of the environment, you are no longer offering a competitive option. There is a small subsection willing to pay more for sustainable produce (the minority are willing to pay up to five per cent for green products), but in general, the public don’t want to pay extra for being more eco-friendly – they want you to figure out a way to offer the same great product/service you do now, but make it more green at no expense or inconvenience to them.

Furthermore there is a subsection of individuals (described by TNS as “product sceptics”, 27 per cent of the UK sample were classified as this) who often opt against buying green products because they are concerned they will not be up to the same standards as non-environmental versions. 

You don’t even necessarily have to actually alter your product – brands such as Keno and Dove have changed their packing to be more environmentally conscious. They also state on the advertisements that the quality of the product has not changed, only the container. This demonstrates a commitment to the environment without altering the product in a way that may risk deterring consumers. 

Your current brand perception counts

One very interesting aspect of the TNS Global study is that the associations of a brand significantly impacted how green it was considered to be. More “caring and gentle” brands like Dove were assumed to be more green purely due to their concerned image. The brand Ryan Air, which are actually one of the greenest airlines, were assumed to be the worst because of their low quality and budget reputation. 

So it’s important to consider your current branding and how a greater commitment to the environment ties in with the public’s perception of your business – make sure the green aspect of your branding is congruent with your brand identity. 

Clearly communicate your green efforts

An obstacle that prevented individuals from fulfilling their aspirations to purchase green products was a lack of awareness. TNS found that 49 per cent of UK individuals surveyed said they were not influenced by the environmental impact of goods or services because they did not encounter any information about their environmental impact. 

Some 70 per cent of individuals were keen for labels to contain more information about a brand’s green efforts. Whilst morally it’s great to make your product/services more environmentally friendly, there will be little change to your bottom line unless you let you consumers know about it. Clearly labelling packaging to show whether a product is environmentally friendly was something the majority of those surveyed wanted to see. 

Rachel Hemsley is a professional writer who works on behalf of QMS International Plc, specialists in ISO 14001 Certification.

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