Marketing to Socially Conscious Consumers: Does “Green” Translate Into ROI?




Coins and plant, isolated on white backgroundAs “green” labels proliferate a market that’s flooded with products claiming to be eco-friendly, healthy and sustainable, it’s easy for people seeking sustainable lifestyles to feel confused about which products are actually better for the environment and their lifestyles – making an already oversaturated industry even more challenging for sustainable marketers. To make meaningful connections and deliver effective marketing that increases ROI, sustainable brands need to truly understand the DNA of socially conscious consumers and what makes them tick.

First, not all socially conscious consumers are alike. There are some commonalities: they share a feeling of connectedness to an overall sense of purpose, place a high value on “doing good,” and are more inclined to support brands that empower them to feel good, happy and healthy. But when it comes to buying behaviors, do those good feelings and positive sentiments actually translate in ROI? Vizeum conducted a global survey of sustainable consumers across North America, Europe and Asia, and identified a gap between consumers’ interest in sustainability and their resulting action – a new insight for marketers trying to reach the growing numbers and influence of “green” consumers. They want to live an eco-friendly, sustainable lifestyle, but are they willing to take action and pay more to do so?

To find out which types of American consumers are actually willing to spend more for sustainable products, and what drives them to do so, Vizeum conducted additional research in the U.S. and identified two segments of socially conscious consumers, representing 30% of the population, who are willing to pay more for a sustainable lifestyle: Reactive Millennials and Conscientious Explorers.


Reactive Millennials

Reactive Millennials are young people who have grown up with sustainability and have had an array of green and eco-friendly products at their fingertips. As a result, they feel greater affinity to those brands. Like most Millennials, they’re externally focused and motivated by a desire to share their purchases with friends and gain status on social media. Because living a sustainable lifestyle is part of their culture and their peer group encourages them to be environmentally conscious, they’re more likely to be receptive to marketing messages – making them one of the most important consumer groups for sustainable brands. To them, eco-friendly product purchases straddle the line between doing the right thing and capitalizing on self-defining trends.


Conscientious Explorers

Conscientious Explorers are information-seekers who make purchasing decisions based on knowledge and doing the right thing. Unlike Reactive Millennials, these people are typically moms with older kids who are more internally motivated and are pursuing information to help them make healthy, responsible purchases for their families. While Millennials may be the most sustainability-driven consumer groups, people engaging the most in sustainable behaviors, like recycling, are actually in the 54-64-age range. They have an entirely different set of beliefs and drivers motivating them to lead a sustainable life.

In recent years, “green,” “sustainable” and “eco-friendly” have become overhyped buzzwords, inevitably leading to consumer skepticism and a tougher sell for sustainable marketers. Consumers are adept at knowing when they are being marketed to and whether or not it is authentic, so no one can rely on a “green” label to increase ROI. People aren’t as willing to sacrifice their needs in order to meet the “green” standard, so it’s all about promoting excellence in products and adding value. By making it easier to recycle, developing a more sustainable infrastructure and providing education, we can inspire consumers to act on their interest and pursue more sustainable consumption habits.

This is just the tip of the iceberg, especially as curiosity in eco-friendly lifestyles continues to grow. No matter which type of socially conscious consumers you are talking to, understanding what motivates them and delivering marketing that is key to inspiring their ongoing pursuit of sustainable products, consumption habits and lifestyles.

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