Jill Brittlebank, head of retail, Acxiom Information Products explores how to approach the different shades of green in your customer base.
How many times have you heard the words CSR, green and carbon-neutral in the last six months? The media and conference agenda is awash with demands for organisations to go ‘green’ as environmental awareness grows.
The general message appears to be that an organisation’s survival depends on bringing greener products and services to every customer. I completely agree that businesses must start to take action now to be able to meet this inevitable demand. And the sooner the better.
To succeed, any green strategy must fulfil three criteria. Firstly, it must be a sustainable and credible programme, which brings real benefits to the environment. Secondly, it must deliver sound economic ROI and competitive advantage to the business.
Finally, it must be supported by relevant green messages, which resonate with customers and prospects. The first and second criteria are obvious and seem to have been understood by most organisations. However, it is on the third where businesses are in danger of falling down.
Green is just one part of the mix for customers and, of course, all brands still need to compete on the price, function and quality of their products and services. But, as with any initiative, unless your customers engage with a new idea, even the most promising, well-designed and competitive programmes, which have the full support of the Board, won’t work.
Getting the communications right is key to securing engagement. Just look to ONdigital, the pay TV service, which made the assumption that customers felt considerable antipathy towards the competing product, Sky (and Murdoch).
However, ONdigital misjudged customer perception, and fell behind as Sky launched an aggressive marketing campaign for its pay TV service. The rest, as they say, is history.
Despite what the media may proclaim, the UK public is still made up of different shades of green. Rushing blindly into pushing a green brand, service or product to all consumers can potentially damage brand perception.
From an organisation’s point of view, certain sections of a customer base will be much more receptive to an out-and-out deep green message, while there are other sections that are a lighter shade of green and are not yet as sure about it.
Taking a broad brush approach could alienate a large section of your target audience, and doom the whole initiative to failure.
Any green strategy must acknowledge that different consumers will need to be engaged differently, and that communications must be tailored accordingly. But this is easier said than done. Or is it?
A clear insight into the different shades is a critical success factor, so organisations can effectively tailor the strength of the green message across customers. For example, they can quickly and easily recruit existing customers which are more likely to adopt programmes sooner, therefore building momentum for the programme.
At the same time, they can spend more time educating those consumers, who may have been less receptive to the Green proposition, on the benefits.
Rather than scare them away, they can bring them closer to accepting the proposition. The Green score, provided by Acxiom, is one way to enable users to understand which customers and prospects are most likely to be interested in green initiatives and, crucially, which are currently the least likely to respond positively.
By integrating an effective and sustainable green strategy, with targeted and intelligent messaging, businesses can reach the ultimate goal of delivering economic and environmental ROI, while achieving competitive advantage for the brand.
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