As Environmental Messages Have Lost Appeal Building Materials Should Focus on Other Strengths
A few years ago, every building material, like every other product, was attempting to make green products, or prove how they incorporated sustainable practices, or label their products environmentally-friendly. However, market analysts are now reporting that a green product has little effect on consumers, and it could even have a negative effect as shoppers associate green products with environmental moralizing.
Businesses, even eco-friendly ones, are switching their marketing to emphasize more traditional factors, such as value. A building product’s performance or aesthetic benefits still has an edge over its competitors, without making consumers feel guilty.
The economic downturn hurt the marketability of green products, as consumers who could no longer afford to buy green felt ashamed of their buying habits. What analysts are finding today is that the negative psychological effects still remain despite the fact that the economy has improved. Recent studies have supported the existence of this phenomenon, finding that the more educated people become about sustainable practices, the more likely they are to feel guilty about every product decision they make.
This doesn’t mean that companies with eco-friendly building products are stuck. There are several tactics they can take to stay marketable and green.
How to keep green building products competitive
1) Focus on the quality of the product.
Even if there’s an eco-friendly label on the product, companies should focus on the other merits of their product to get sales. A green product that plays up its performance, health benefits, or convenience can probably negate the psychological backlash of being green. In fact, the health benefits angle may be more plausible because the product is environmentally-friendly.
2) Concentrate on the story, not the moral.
No one wants to feel like they’re being preached at, especially when they’re deciding what product to buy. A package with a statement of the company’s commitment to the environment can be a lot friendlier than a package with a generic eco-friendly stamp. Giving the consumer an opportunity to engage with the company’s message can make them feel happy about their contribution to the environment, not guilty about all the other things they could have done.
3) Encourage consumers to feel good, not guilty, when buying the product.
In addition to telling a story rather than passing judgment, companies can use other methods to make their brand seem consumer-friendly, not just eco-friendly. A brand that takes itself seriously, just like a self-important person, will seem a lot more judgmental than a brand that seems down-to-earth.
Using specific details, such as what sustainable process or resources the company uses, will resonate with consumers without making them feel as though they need to follow the company’s example. Consumers can have solar panels on their roof, and may feel guilty if they do not, but most consumers don’t choose what ingredients to use in their products, except through buying those products. Provide a partnership opportunity (if you buy our product, you’ll be supporting sustainable growth) rather than a straight role model (everyone should use solar energy).
The bottom line is that companies can no longer take the easy way out, get an eco-friendly label, and expect sales to climb. Instead, they should be looking at ways to avoid the deadly trap of driving consumers away by tailoring the message to their green building products.
Based on an article from Amy Westervelt in the Wall Street Journal.