Green Marketing in a Struggling Economy

So you want to help the environment by being more eco-friendly and increasing your green efforts, but think that it is too expensive? Many people wonder if they should cut back on green marketing and their green efforts in a struggling economy, but in fact you should do quite the opposite. I read in the September issue of Deliver, a marketing magazine, that it is actually a “hook to getting through them”. They say that green marketing improves your efficiencies, increases customer loyalty, and differentiates your brand.

Wal-Mart-Eco-Friendly-EffortsTake for instance, Wal-Mart’s green efforts. Wal-Mart’s “Earth Month” green marketing efforts included print ads for 10 different green products under $10 and “rollbacks” on environmentally-friendly products. Customers are looking for ways to save money in a tough economy, and Wal-Mart is helping them do that, while still having a positive environmental effect.

Eco-Friendly-Efforts-SunChips-Solar-EnergyGreen marketing also increases customer loyalty. Frito-Lay’s SunChips brand gained customers by showing them that green is both good for them and the environment. They started this marketing plan after seeing market research from 2006 that showed that people who care about their personal health also care about the planet. SunChips have 18 grams of whole grain and zero trans fat. Since these chips are healthier than regular potato chips, their campaigns played off this, their nature-related name, and their sustainability investments, which includesEco-Friendly-Efforts-SunChips-Compostable-Bag producing a compostable bag. They promoted their compostable bags with an online video showing them decompose, as well as print ads that included a tear-off sample for consumers to test it out themselves in their compost piles. Green marketing helped SunChips become one of the fastest-growing snack brands at Frito-Lay.

Eco-friendly-Efforts-Innovation-Thinking-Ideas-EnvironmentGreen marketing, done correctly, also differentiates your brand from the competition. IBM took a different route by connecting with the community in their green efforts. Their Smarter Planet initiative used direct mail to encourage individuals, businesses, and institutions to change the way they work. They also started a series of jams, or brainstorming sessions, that bring people from around the world together to solve an issue. Their “Congestion Challenge” collects innovative ideas to fight transportation congestion, and the winner receives $50,000, as well as the development and implementation support for the idea.

Know Thy Customer: On a Budget

Know Thy Customer on a Budget Comic

In the previous post, “Know Thy Customer,” I blogged about ways to do market research to get to know your customers better. Doing this helps marketers to give customers what they want, increase sales, and reach customer-driven goals. Many of the tips I provided are not within reach of businesses that work with smaller marketing budgets, so here is a post aimed at providing ways to “know thy customer” on a budget.Know Thy Customer on a Budget Comic

Talk to your best customers. This does not mean putting hours of planning into designing survey questions and sitting down with customers for half hour in-depth interviews (although if you want to put the time and money into that, it can’t hurt and would provide great insights into your customers). This is simply an informal chat about your customers needs and wants, with regard to your company. Ask them what you can do better to leave them more satisfied. Keep it simple. Keep it short.
Ask customers what they do and where they go in their spare time. This may seem like small talk to you, and to them – which can be good for building rapport with your customers – but you are actually finding out a lot about these customers based on their interests. What do your customers’ hobbies tell you about them? If your customer is interested in snowboarding, it could mean that they are interested in adventure and taking risks. If they visit social networking sites a lot, they could be interested in technology and meeting new people. Look at these interests and their implications and see if they can be applied to your business, marketing, and/or products and services.

Know Thy Customer on a Budget SurveyConduct surveys. This can be done in a number of ways. Leave surveys on the bottom of sales receipts for customers to send back to you. E-mail all of your customers asking them for their feedback. Place polls or short surveys in your e-newsletters. Create a feedback form to link to the pages on your Website. Think about key modes of communication between you and your customer and utilize these modes as possible survey locations.

Check out competitor Websites. Their customers are likely very similar to your customers. What do your competitors do that tailors to these customers? Do they have a blog or open forum? What do the comments indicate about customer interests? What kind of speech do your competitors use to connect with customers? What are they doing that you are not?
Analyze the data you already have. What is your best selling product? What is your worst selling product? Are some products starting to sell better? Are some products being ordered less frequently? Which ones? This is all data that you have in-house from your order records. You can probably discover much more than this simply by looking at the data you already have! If you have certain products or services that sell better than others, you can look into creating related, complimentary products or services or you could examine the way you market that product and why those tactics are effective.

If you don’t have the money or the time to spend on consumer research, any of these options can provide significant insight into customers that can be applied to your business principles. Don’t let your budget deter you from this important business angle. Getting to know your customers will pay off big in the end. It will build loyalty to your business and can grow your profits. With these simple, cost-effective marketing tips, you have the tools to effectively Know Thy Customer.
Know Thy Customer on a Budget Survey

    A Cereal Box Of A Different Shape

    When it comes to packaging, a different shape or size package can accomplish many things.

    1. Use less materials to be more environmentally-friendly.  Cutting down on the amount of materials being used can play a huge impact, rather than simply switching materials.
    2. It works better for the consumer.  Shorter boxes will fit in kitchen cupboards and pantries better by take up less room.
    3. Using less materials can cut down on costs.
    4. Differentiation can help your product stand out on the shelf over the competition.
    Kellogg's Frosted Mini-Wheats New Box Packaging

    (Picture found at: Packaging Matters)

    In the above example, Kellogg’s is testing a box of a different shape.  It holds the same amount of cereal, uses less packaging material, fits into kitchen cupboards better, and it makes a great first impression.  This cuts down on costs and generates less waste to be more eco-friendly.

    If it turns out that the box will also help little tykes spill less cereal on the table, Kellogg’s has really got a winning design!

    Blu-Ray Sales Boom and Prices Drop

    Blu-Ray Disc Prices DropWe keep seeing proof that the trend of Blu-Ray technology is here to stay.  As the popularity grows, sales will go up and prices will go down.  This will allow the Blu-Ray technology to continue to penetrate the market.

    According to High-Def Digest, 3.1 million Blu-Ray discs have sold in the UK since the start of the year…that’s about a 231 percent increase in sales!  Their DVD sales, on the other hand, only went down slightly by about 9.5 percent.

    This week, Best Buy discounted a house brand Blu-Ray player, the Insignia Blu-Ray disc player with 1080p output to only $99.99.  Wal-Mart is also offering a deal under $100 with their Magnavox NB530MGX Blu-RayMagnavox Blu-Ray Player Low Price $98 player for only $98 as a permanent “rollback” from the previous $168 price.  At the same time, online retailer, Amazon, is offering a sale on Blu-Ray discs starting at $14.99 each.  According to NPD Group Inc., Blu-Ray player sales have increased  by 72 percent in the first quarter of 2009 in comparison to the first quarter of 2008.

    With the growing Blu-Ray popularity and the increase in sales, we are starting to see the prices drop for Blu-Ray players and Blu-Ray discs.  As this happens, Blu-Ray is starting to become more affordable and available for most everyone.

    Have a “Green” 4th of July

    Environmentally-friendly Green 4th of JulyAs we celebrate our nation’s holiday this year, let’s have fun and honor our country, without harming our environment.  The Environmental Blog provided 5 tips for a “green” 4th of July:

    1.  Buy organic food. Support local farmers markets by buying their organic fruits and vegetables.  Buy local and cut down on transportation.  You could even shop with reusable shopping bags.

    2.  Bust out the silverware. Avoid wasting paper plates, napkins, cups, and plastic utensils.  Save money by using your own plates and washing them.  If you must use disposable plates and cups, try to find biodegradable alternatives.

    3.  Grill on the “green” side. Use a non-toxic cleaner on your grill.Environmentally-friendly Green 4th of July Grilling Cut back on grilling and carbon emissions by eating fresh veggies, or grill food that will cook quickly, such as thin meats, fish, marshmallows, or veggies.

    4.  Buy “green” charcoal. Use 100% all-natural hardwood lump charcoal.  They don’t have any chemicals or fillers, they burn faster, and produce less ash.  This leftover ash from all-natural charcoal can be sprinkled around your plants to keep the bugs away.

    5.  Substitute lighter fluid. Try using a chimney starter, instead of toxic lighter fluid.  They are inexpensive and you don’t have to worry about the toxic fluids cooking into your food.

    Don’t forget to use these tips and add a little “green” to your red, white, and blue festivities this year.  Not only would you be more environmentally-friendly, but you could save money as well!

    Studios use Lighter DVD Packaging

    According to the New York Times, many studiolighter packaging warner home video WB companies are now using DVD cases that are smaller and lighter in weight to reduce their environmental impact, as well as save on costs.

    Warner Home Video, the largest distributor of DVD entertainment, just started releasing all of its new and library titles in cases with 20 percent less plastic.  Some feature a thin layer of plastic, while others have cutouts in the walls.  One of lighter stock black dvd casesthe main forces is to lessen the load on the environment; it will reduce Warner’s home entertainment division’s carbon emissions by 31 percent.  Not only do these improvements help the environment, but they also cut costs for companies by using less raw materials and by spending less on shipping.  Companies are looking to save money wherever they can, especially in this struggling economy.

    Warner is not the only studio making changes in DVD packaging.  Just last month, Sony Pictures Entertainment released their own 20 percent reduced DVD cases.  Walt Disney Company is lighter stock Blu-Ray casesalso coming up with their own green home entertainment ideas.  And don’t forget that Disney, Century Fox, and Sony were the ones to really push the shift to Blu-Ray discs, in which cases have a 30 percent smaller impact on the environment.

    Using lighter DVD packaging helps the environment by reducing waste and carbon emissions, while still storing and protecting your DVDs.  And don’t forget about the money you’ll be saving on raw materials and shipping!  lighter stock dvd clamshell casesLighter DVD packaging could include DVD cases with cutouts in the walls, Blu-Ray cases, slim DVD cases, c-shells or square-shells.

    8 Green Ways to Increase Profits

    Wherever you go, you are constantly hearing about companies becoming more environmentally-friendly, but what does it mean for you? While “going green” is certainly good for the environment, it is also a smart business practice. Not only does it attract attention, but it also cuts costs and increases the profitability of your company. In the March/April 2009 issue of Enterprise Minnesota, Sarah Olson pointed out eight ways to green profits:

    1. Discover what green means to you. environmentally-friendly earth and moneyFigure out which sustainable practices fit in with the flow and personality of your company. Some hire an outside consultant to analyze which solutions are best for the company.
    2. Get educated. Learn what it means to be green. Customers can tell if you know what you are talking about, and with green knowledge, they may turn to you for advice.
    3. Set a green standard. Eco-friendly options are all around us. By starting out early with green alternatives, you could be the example and set the standard of what it means to be environmentally-friendly for your industry. Not only do consumers notice this about your company, but you are helping get other companies become more environmentally-friendly.
    4. Go lean to go green. By leaning your practices, you can reduce your costs and increase your profits. Analyze your company to figure out energy and material inefficiencies. From there, figure out ways to clean up these practices to increase efficiency and profitability, while reducing costs and waste.
    5. Seek out incentives. Many utility companies offer deals for reducing energy consumption and waste generation, because they have to keep up with national energy regulations. For example, Xcel Energy refunds up to 50 percent on the cost of a lighting retrofit or upgrade. Others may offer grants or favorable-rate loans to businesses with energy efficiencies improvements. Ask your utility provider what kind of incentives they offer.
    6. Increase loyalty and attract customers. More than ever, people are looking to do business with green companies. According to a survey done by Cone Inc. and Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship, 59 percent of young adults were “concerned about the environmental impact of their consumption”, and 39 percent of those were consuming more environmentally-friendly products. According to 68 percent, “If a company had a strong reputation for environmental commitment, it positively influenced their decision to buy the product or service.” By going green, you could both keep your existing customers, as well as attract new ones.
    7. Reduce your carbon footprint. Not only does reducing your energy consumption help the environment, but it will lower your energy bill significantly. To top it off, being aware of your carbon emissions gives you a good reputation with those looking to do business with a green company.
    8. Build a greener mousetrap. Take a jumpstart in taking advantage of the increasing demand for green products. You can do this by creating a new process of making a product or the packaging more environmentally-friendly. It could reduce waste in materials used for packaging, fewer distribution trucks would be needed for shipping, and less money would be spent on energy. Aside from all of these cost-cutting benefits, it is a great marketing tool to increase sales and demand.

    think green recycling

    Going green is a practice that is here to stay. By implementing these practices for your company, you could lower your costs and increase your profitability, all while helping out the environment. Read more about our green efforts.