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July 16, 2007


marguerite manteau-rao


Thanks for bringing our attention to this fascinating study. I have spent the last three months documenting the split described in the study, between attitudes and behaviors, relative to green, using myself as subject.

"My Inconvenient Truth: The Daily Sins of a Green Girl Wannabe"

One of the learnings of this exercise, is a confirmation of what we all know intuitively. Knowledge does not necessarily translate into behavioral change. The power of old habits, self-gratification, pleasure inducing activities, laziness, cannot be underestimated. There is also a lot to be said for the transforming power of consciousness, as witnessed in my blog. Unfortunately, how many people are willing to become more conscious? Appealing to the seven deadly sins, is still one of the easiest way to get the masses to act. I am very interested in exploring practical strategies to induce behavioral changes to promote sustainability. I am also struck by the lack of imagination from marketers. One thing I know, political correctness is probably not the way to go.


Wyatt Brown

Smith (“It's not that consumers aren't aware of the environment, but there's something missing in the way consumers are processing information given to them about the environment”) and Levitt’s comments (“People don't buy products. They buy solutions to problems”) are the key here.

The fact is that, Americans simply have not felt enough pain yet to truly care!

There is not enough of a perceived “problem” yet to compel consumers to create true demand for green-living and efficiency technologies.

Our entire economy and social order are built upon the inequalities of taking advantage of other cultures/countries and their natural resources. The US' “spoiled rotten” factor is where we are hung up as a nation.

Until we REALLY feel the burn as a notion ($7p-Gal oil/$10 Gal milk...), we just don’t seem to care enough to patriotically bust a move!

Joe Galliani

Great piece Joel. Thanks for providing this write up and your perspective.

It's the "solutions to problems" and directly addressing pain points that separates the consumer market from the business and enterprise market.

As you yourself have written about, data center energy and cooling costs are driving the greening of data centers. The driver isn't mitigating environmental impact. The driver is cutting costs and addressing capacity and productivity issues.

Gambling casinos around the country are another excellent example. Their spiraling energy and cooling costs are driving the greening of gaming machines, the move to innovative LED lighting fixtures and on-site alternative energy production. It's about profit margins not cutting carbon footprints for ownership.

When consumers see the same direct connection between their own home-based pain points and solutions that address and mitigate that pain then we'll have reached that elusive "tipping point" and the polling numbers will move as quickly and significantly as George Bush's have.

Although the overall numbers are smaller than most of our Green community would like to see, the upward trend of those numbers over the last two years is another part of the overall story.

Keep up the great work. I enjoy and admire your writing and the research/analysis behind it.


Thanks, Joel. Do you have any more information on the geographics of the survey? More than a green bubble (which I do not believe in), I think this survey might reflect higher numbers on the coast (adoption lag), just as we've seen with energy efficiency sales. One of the biggest problems I see? Green product companies trying to go straight for a mainstream marketing and PR strategy. You gotta do niche differently; a very audience-centric approach is required. In any case, its no walk in the park to sell green products; you have to not only figure out how to make it relevant to individuals (teach people about the problem) - but you have to make it fun and creative too. Example: http://youtube.com/watch?v=Cfp-n6Zh0Xo

One Man- OneYearGoal.com

Very interesting information. Unfortunately, there is no one guaranteed way of advertising for anything, not only "green" products. That's where creativity comes into play. Thanks for the great article!

One Man, One Year, $100,000. Can he do it?


Hi Joel, Must be hard for you to accept that the majority of the population seem deaf to what is so obvious to you. "We can't go on like this". Perhaps you are getting that "flogging a dead horse" feeling as far as the general public is concerned. But are you surprised? There are powerful institutions, rich corporations, vast political machines, whole industries pumping out their messages in a relentless torrent. Not surprising that people are deadened, suspicious and so weary of being told what they should do and think.
Perhaps a clue of how to sell the green message is in the phrase people want "solutions to problems" rather than products. A lot of the green message comes across as a sacrifice we have to make for our envioronment, or for the future of our children, or for our continued existance. All true, but tagging a message to the negative of sacrifice seems a tad counterproductive. Putting the message in the positive so that people can improve their lives right here right now by simplifying, avoiding the consumer treadmill, identifying what we really want which is time to invest in rewarding relationships. Work work work to get more stuff stuff stuff is coming to be seen as a problem that people want a solution to.
The green message is too often seen as a problem of the future. But it should be presented as a solution to the present.
Please ignore all of the above. I was just thinking out loud. You dont get more out loud than the internet.
Cheers, Paul

Caroline Cummings, Value-based Marketing Officer | OsoEco

Kudos to Joel for bringing up this topic. The green movement definitely requires a new way of thinking about marketing.

A common marketing theme seen in the "green movement" is based on fear. Make this change or the world will end, or you’re bad if you feed your children that food. And we all know how well that tactic works. Please!

All of the conscious consumers we hear from say they're tired of feeling like they need to make huge sacrifices to feel like they're making baby steps towards living more sustainably.

I think we need to take the statement to “sell solutions and not products” even further. What we really need to do is sell an ideology. People want to belong to something important first. And if we sell sustainability this way it's much less scary and more tangible.

One key thing to remember is that these conscious consumers want is to be included in grassroots marketing programs. They want to be the first to know about new green products and solutions and they consider themselves key influencers among their family and friends (The LOHAS Consumer Trends Report, © The Natural Marketing Institute, 2006). So THEY will become your messengers - not traditional advertising - which is thankfully going out the door.

Now of course it's much easier to "sell" this movement to the folks that are already conscious consumers - but how about the millions that when asked about sustainability will talk about paying their electric bill next month, or putting food on the table tomorrow. Their scope of sustainability expands within their own 4 walls - and you can't blame them. Imagine knocking on the FEMA trailers in New Orleans and asking them what sustainability means. This is probably why "The majority of consumers really don't care all that much about the environment." That is the "global environment." It all depends on how you define "environment."

This is a huge paradigm shift for people - for businesses and consumers alike. So it's going to take a very long time and a Change Management approach. Here are a few key elements that are working for OsoEco...

(1) Bottom-up: It's got to be a grassroots approach (which most of the Change Management consultants who say the complete opposite), we need ambassadors for this change at all consumer levels - as each segment has different opinions about what it means to "sustain" - personal survival vs. planetary survival. THEY need to tell US what they want as opposed to the traditional marketing model that tells the consumers what the organization thinks they need. Very egotistical to say the least. See this article on the Social Computing movement:


(2) Reward, Reward, Reward!: We need to reward people for the changes they make - no matter how small they are. And focus on the positive nature of this movement as opposed to making people feel bad that they got out of bed, turned on their lights, ingested chemicals for breakfast and hopped into their gas guzzling SUV to commute 45 minutes to work. People will not change if we make them feel badly about their current lifestyle. Or if they feel they need to make huge sacrifices.

(3) Starting Simple: Provide an open forum for people to have a voice and voting power - but voting on issues close to home - not voting on "saving the planet" - it's too big to comprehend.

(4) Ethical Leadership: We consistently hear that people want someone they trust to tell them what to do - and then they'll do it. I think this is a key problem with our politicians (sorry, I don't mean to get political here). Make an "ask" already. We saw how this worked when President Bush told people to go shopping that we'll take care of this. Please - but - PEOPLE DID IT!!! Scary.

And when Oprah tells people to change their light bulbs to energy-efficient light bulbs they do it! And they do it mainly because their electricity bill will go down - not because it's saving the polar bears in the Arctic.

(5) Consistency in Messaging: This is a big one - there are too many ideas out there what it means to be green. We (all businesses) need to put somewhat of a stake in the ground so people can hold onto it and feel like they belong to something important. But remember - they have to feel they belong to something that hits them personally. If it's too far from their "home" it won't work.

I also recommend making the investment with The Natural Marketing Institute to buy research on the LOHAS consumer - it's quite helpful. www.nmisolutions.com


To move 1/3rd of consumers in one year to feel "much more concerned" about any issue is a big deal. And yet this study describes it as "only 34% report they're much more concerned than they were last year."

This seems to be nothing but purposeful spin, so I don't know why I should take seriously anything else that they report.

Mark Rae is building his website...

Can I add something about Yankelovich?

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