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May 28, 2007


Francesca Johnson

Great review. Thank you. I agree that all this is trivializing the green marketplace, as if making green choices is no more important to our survival than choosing low-carb over low-cal. I think one of the problems with these studies lies in the need to group disparate products and practices under one big green umbrella. There have been many studies conducted over the years that look at grocery products or home purchases as a group, but I doubt if anyone has ever attempted to meld together ALL THINGS GREEN into one meaningless whole. It may be more expensive, and may take more time, and may grab less media attention for the research conglomerates, but maybe, just maybe, we need to look at green marketing in the context of the particular market in question. Just a thought.
My second concern is that segmentation analysis is based upon a 35 year old methodology that has many flaws. Most notably, there are usually several solutions that are possible after conducting a cluster analysis, and usually it's a case of eye-balling the results and putting cute names to the clusters you select. Therefore, Joel, I think your own segmentation model, your four cluster solution, sounds as good as any out there!

michael jones

Joel asked "any nominations for companies educating...", etc...yes, areU LLC. areU (tag line "being the change") has developed a brand named WasteBusters. Please see the video at wastebusters.net. Its nine minutes, so you will need a fair amount of band width. Comments and questions are welcomed.

Mark C R UK

Very funny Joel. Made me chuckle.

I suppose I'd be a Fern-Green.... I'm a chemist - some bad chemicals are simply even today unavoidable.... but we're trying.... and in the grand scheme things are improving...

I drive a 48MPG Fiat Punto (commuting here in the UK)...

So theres a mixture of shades.

Gave me something to think about - in that maybe in this case, attaching labels to people is actually worth it?!?

The huge debate over measuring green goes onward. I'm forever being quizzed by (synthetic) chemists - unfamiliar with or cynical about Green Chemistry over this and that being green or non-green. Often coming out with outrageous comments in between!

This "labeling" does help in a strange way.... linking into the "metrics" used, using scales for products?
See: Go Green

I suppose it should give some comfort that society in a larger sense is thinking more in this way?

Mark C R UK

P.S. this labelling is similar to how the banks look at potential customers - attaching labels to them based on the risks and potential earnings they can get out of them....

Incidentally, the banks in the UK have pretty much all announced record profits in the last year......

Shows that people involved in the fundamental economics are getting into this... with marketing maybe taking a new leap also?

We should watch for the fundamental message being lost in the process though and remain weary of over-market-ering.... if you catch my drift?

Mark C R UK


I've just written a post Green Chemistry: The cynical perspective after reading an article in the RSC's Chemistry World magazine entitled "Keeping it Green". It seems a devaluation of the term "Green" may be occuring.... (Article in CW was dated 25th May).

Your current post had some direct relevance.

Again I suggest - the mechanisms for measuring green - Life-cycle assessment, and other forms of Environmental Impact Assessment... plus the "Green Chemistry Metrics" I have already briefly mentioned should help refocus people a little more.... if they were more generally known of?

Since we seem to have become lost in "Green or not" thinking, which isn't true to life.

Come see if you wish as to my side.

Best regards,

The Green Chemistry Technical Blog

G.B. Veerman


Great post, great comments (esp.Francesca). I also agree with your categories and would take it a step further: what you've called out here is not a green issue, it's a marketing/communications issue. This sort of thing happens in nearly every category of the marketplace, from kitchen gadgets to mutual funds.

It's appropriate to research your targets, and I'm not going to call bullshit on the esteemed Landor, but sometimes in business we way over-intellectualize, as you've proven here. So I give you this gem from one of the most respected designers in America, Michael Bierut of NYC's legendary Pentagram:

"It’s a dirty secret that much of what we admire in the design world is a byproduct not of 'strategy' but of common sense, taste and luck. Some clients are too unnerved by ambiguity to accept this, and create gargantuan superstructures of bullshit to provide a sense of security. Not only do designers enthusiastically collude in this process, but many have found ways to bill for it."

Substitute the word "green marketing" for "design," and you begin to see that, among many of us interested in the business side of green, the emperor is way underdressed.

Maybe Niavebut

Yes, it is confusing, yes in is contradictory, but I disagree that it is "triviallising" or a waste of time. Businesses produce goods and services - people still want them. So if these kind of "consumer grouping" processes can help businesses to focus their approaches - one step at a time - to improving their offer, their production methods, whatever it is - by speaking first to the people who will purchase the said product/process due to improved "green credentials" - then I encourage that. I truely think most people (and remember we are all consumers, and businesses are staffed by people too) want to do the right thing, but just need help in knowing what to do first. Or who to market too first. And I think yes, businesses might over complicate - but I think very rarely do they intellectualize! ;-)

marty mcdonald


The various segmentation studies serve two purposes.

First, to help the creators frame the green landscape for themselves. Second, to frame it for others.

If a firm is a research company, the second is most likely the motivator, and usually requires a hefty fee. Firms like ours' use segmentation studies to gain insights and understanding into both our current and future clients' customers.

We did our own segmentation study, and similarly created various names for each group. Probably not a whole lot different in the findings that the rest here. (We also did attitudes and behaviors, but it should be noted that even this approach is shortsighted, as ethnographic research is the best way to measure true behavior.) But to create our own was both illuminating and self-serving.

In a nutshell, the organizing theme for all of these is that most people--mainstream America--will buy products based on the concept of "enlightened self interest". What this means is that, for the majority, a product has to serve some benefit to the individual first(self-interest), and only then can the secondary theme of enlightenment, or altruism, take account. The environment is not perceived as a concept pertaining to self-interest at this time.

For a small percentage of the population--the core greens--"enlightenment" factors more significantly in purchase behavior, sometimes even surpassing the idea of self interest. But this group is small--between 12-20%.

For the rest, the mainstream, a brand has to first have a primary brand driver that serves self interest--convenience, cost, style, health, accessibility, quality, performance, etc.--before it can present the secondary "green" theme, which is one of "enlightenment".

So, in essence, "green" will never work as an organizing theme for the majority of Americans. If however, it is served up in the context of self-interest, it can stick. Think about organics--the reason it is hugely popular is not for a green reason, but one of health.

Hope this helps.

Marty McDonald

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