Marketers aiming to shift their audiences toward making greener purchasing decisions are coming up short for the vast majority of the population, although a small subset is green enough to help spread the environmental awareness on their own.
Those are the findings of two new studies released this week, one by the Tennessee-based advertising agency Shelton Group, and the other by communications firm Porter Novelli.
The Shelton Group's "Eco Pulse" study asked consumers nationwide to identify products, services or certifications that were required in order to have a green home. With no prompting, nearly half of all respondents were essentially unable to name one feature of a green home, and small portions of the remaining sample cited examples like solar power, CFL light bulbs, home recycling or Energy Star products.
When given a list of options to choose from, however, the survey found individuals were likely to swing in the opposite direction: of 17 possible green features, respondents chose an average of 10.4 as being "required" for a green home.
"Consumers seem to think green homes are an all-or-nothing proposition -- and because of the real and perceived costs, many are throwing their hands up and saying 'I just can’t do all of this'," said Shelton Group CEO Suzanne Shelton.
One example Shelton offered was that 71 percent of responses to that aided question said solar power -- "one of the most expensive home upgrades for energy efficiency that can be made," Shelton said -- was a requirement of green living.
If most individuals are unclear as to how they can go green in realistic and achievable ways, the new study by Porter Novelli has found that a small but highly influential subset of the population is making waves in the new, mainstream green movement.
The results of a survey of almost 12,000 adults in the U.S. identified about 4 percent of the population that the company labeled "greenfluencers:" environmentally educated, politically active and socially connected individuals that are driving trends and shaping what green products make it off the shelves into individual homes.
This group are the people that friends ask for expert advice, are almost three times as likely as the general population to read and participate in blog discussions, and 41 percent of whom write to their political representatives. As a result, they are the tip of the iceberg to reaching newly green consumers, Porter Novelli said.
"Newly eco-conscious consumers face a daunting and confusing set of choices, as well as complex issues that must be factored into any assessment of a product's sustainability," said David Zucker, the director of CauseWorks, Porter Novelli's sustainability division. "If marketers do not reach Greenfluencers, who have the interest and ability to influence the rest of us, their marketing messages may be lost in a sea of green noise."
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