Posts Tagged ‘green marketing’

What do Star Trek and Green Businesses Have in Common?

Tuesday, May 12th, 2009

I haven’t seen the new Star Trek movie yet, but while listening to talk about the movie I realized that the movie is like the green business world in at least one important respect. 


Is it because they are both action packed?  Maybe.


But more importantly success for both the movie and for green businesses requires breaking out of their niche to reach the broader mainstream market.  And the way to do this is by constructing a great product that just happens to be Star Trek, or green, on top of this.


The worlds of Trekkies and green consumers can both be insular.  Like attracts like.  Trekkies memorize and recite dialog to each other and think nothing of going out in public wearing Spock ears.  They would be first in line for the movie, no matter what. 


The makers of the movie realized though that they could not restrict their audience to the diehard Trekkies.  For the movie to do well, it had to appeal to a broad audience, including those who don’t have a clue who Sulu and Uhura are.  It had to be a great movie first, and a Star Trek movie second.  It had to be a movie that even non-Klingon speakers will want to see.  The movie has managed to do this without losing the original fan base, the Trekkies who have been loyal followers for all of these years. 


The same is true for the greenies.  Deep greenies tend to aggregate together, all of them speaking the language of sustainability with each other.  They talk about Paul Hawken, Hunter Lovins, and Van Jones.  They are the 5% of the population who value green above all else, even if it costs more. 


For most people though, green is only one part of the product puzzle.  They buy products because they work well, or have the right price, or were well marketed to make them feel cool.  To reach the mainstream, green businesses have to sell products that are first of all great products, and green on top of everything else.  In many cases the green economy is just starting to break into the mainstream, with huge opportunities for future growth ahead still.


So, maybe there is something for green businesses to learn from the success of Star Trek. 


Live long and prosper.

Two Green Economies

Saturday, March 7th, 2009

I get confused sometimes when people talk about “the green economy”.  How large is the green economy?  How do you sell to the green economy?  The answers from different people don’t always agree with each other, and I think the reason might be that there is not really one green economy, but two green economies.  Or more.  



Some people will tell you that the way to sell to the green economy is to emphasize quality above all else, to produce a premium eco-friendly product.  A great product will distinguish itself and attract buyers concerned about the environment, even if it costs more.  And there are examples where this is true.  Stonyfield Farm has built a $300 million business by producing a consistent high-quality organic yogurt that attracted a loyal following, even if the yogurt costs somewhat more. 



Another message out there though is that price matters.  In fact, not just that cost matters, but that cost is the driving force in most purchasing decisions for the vast majority of people.  Being green alone, providing an environmental benefit, is not enough to make the sale for the majority of people.  Green Works products are selling to the mainstream market for cleaning products, not just because of the environmental benefit, but because they can compete on price with the less eco-friendly products sitting nearby on the same grocery store shelf. 



Who’s right?  The answer is that they both are, but they aren’t talking about the same markets, or the same “green economy”. 



The first green economy includes the people who place the environment at the topic of their priority list, and have the money to buy green products even if they cost somewhat more (within reason).  In Joel Makower’s book “Strategies for the Green Economy” there is an insightful afterward by Cara Pike breaking down consumers into useful psychographic groups.  The first green economy corresponds to groups like the “Greenest Americans” in Pike’s analysis, 9% of the market for whom “ecological concern influences their worldview more than any other social value”. 



The other green economy includes the people who are not opposed to buying green but don’t place it on the top of their list. They won’t usually buy something just because it’s green.  If a product works well and the cost is right, and green on top of this, then being green can seal the deal and make the sale.  This group is more like the “Compassionate Caretakers” in Pike’s analysis in the Makower book.  This market is closer to the mainstream.



So when you are positioning your product, thinking who the customer is and how to sell it to them, think about which of the green economies you will be a part of.  Your marketing strategy, your product design, and your pricing will follow from there. 



Glenn Croston is the author of “75 Green Businesses You Can Start to Make Money and Make a Difference“, the expert blogger on green business for Fast Company, and the founder of Starting Up Green (