What We're Reading

When We Don't Say What We Mean

Let’s face it, we all lie. Various studies have concluded that the average person lies 1.58 times per day, but frankly, there is some concern that the participants in those surveys were, well, lying. I know a number of people who might politely be called outliers … on the high side.
This lying on surveys is fairly typical, which is why those of us working in marketing toss out some of those outliers on our own surveys, but it seems to be a particular problem in the field of marketing of green and natural products. Some of this is due to what might be called “aspirational” answers, what those not in the marketing field call “wishful thinking.” For example, I have high hopes to eat only organic, but find myself sneaking the occasional, corn syrup-laden, processed candy bar, something I would never confess on a survey … it would ruin my reputation, my social standing and, possibly, my career. I might be over stating that. Whatever.
This aspirational thinking that colors so much of the market research we do in our field can skew forecasts and undermine campaigns. That is not overstated and should encourage us to re-think some of the ways we view our target market. The reality is that, despite good intentions, many healthy living and environmentally conscious consumers don’t and aren’t … at least as much as they like.
Should we lower our forecasts? Maybe. Should we re-think our campaigns? Definitely. Like luxury items, good- for-the earth and good-for-you products need to show a lifestyle a teensy bit “more” than our target consumer currently lives. Not a lot, just a little – which is the definition of aspirational marketing.
Showing your consumer how your products fit into their current lifestyle goes a lot further than showing them something that is unattainable … without a lot of work. (Consumers really don’t like to work. Ask any gym owner around mid-February after the New Year’s crowd has gone back to couch potato land.)
Attracting the deep green consumer is the easy part. To really grow your business, you have to go after the hybrids, those consumers living a mix-and-match lifestyle that contains elements of green living blended with those that are … less so. This much, much bigger audience likes to be addressed where they currently are — not quite green, at least yet.
So don’t be afraid to show your consumer in your latest ad packing her groceries in a plastic throw away bag or driving in an SUV. Your core green consumer may not do either of these things, but as you grow your market, more and more of your consumers will be living a hybrid lifestyle, not driving one.
Written by Maryanne Conlin

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