Thursday, October 30, 2008

Going Green Yet?

I got a wild idea this past August and decided to take two classes this semester. Damn you, ambition! Luckily, I thrive on stress (and sarcasm).

One of said classes is about communicating sustainability (a.k.a. "talking green"). I find this class quite interesting, not only because my professor has appeared on Oprah twice along with a slew of other top-tier media outlets (a.k.a she knows her stuff), but also because there is a wealth of debate surrounding green consumerism, which is somewhat fascinating to me as a marketer. And as you probably know by now if you've listened to any of my spiel, moms are making 85% of household purchase decisions, so its imperative that green consumerism embrace moms. Does a “Green Approved” stamp on a household product make it more attractive to the general mom consumer population? Can established household and baby brands actually encourage moms to go green with them?

As moms, we are attractive targets for many brands because we're part of a lucrative $2 trillion market. Clorox knows us very well. Recently, I’ve gotten to know Clorox a little better.

Did you know that Burt’s Bees (a popular organic brand) is owned by Clorox? Yes, I’m talking about the same Clorox that pumps bleach into our water system. Clorox purchased Burt’s Bees at the end of 2007 for nearly $1 billion (yes, with a “b”) because, according to the New York Times, “Big companies see big opportunities in the market for green products...Analysts say there is far more growth to be had by it and its competitors as consumers keep gravitating toward products that promise organic and environmental benefits.”

In other words, "green" could be a marketing cash cow ready for the tapping. As a student I'm pondering the chicken-and-egg issue with green marketing to moms: Could it be that mom consumer behaviors are actually spurring household and baby products to go green? If more and more household and baby brands with some degree of established brand equity offer green products to moms (Huggies, are you listening?), will more moms decide choose “green” over those “other” colors?

It’s nearly impossible to talk about going green as a mom without mentioning the great diaper debate. I read an article claiming 200,000 trees each year are used to manufacture disposable diapers for U.S. babies, and it takes several hundred years for disposables to decompose in our landfills. Yuck.

What if Huggies, Pampers and Luvs offered a "green" option, the way Clorox offers a “green” line? I was a baby of the 70s who wore cloth diapers and plastic pants, but I am somehow confused by the idea of using cloth diapers on my hawklets. I couldn’t tell you the name of a cloth diaper brand or, frankly, even how to use a cloth diaper (do you just toss in the washing machine? What?), but even before I was a mom I was very familiar with Huggies, Pampers and Luvs. If these brands offered me greener options, of course I would support them with my pocketbook.

This just in: Target sells organic cotton baby onesies? Why wasn't that marketed to me when I was pregnant and spending (and registering at Target) like a crazy woman?

Does green consumerism need to start leveraging moms’ established brand equity to capture more market share? I think the folks at Clorox would say, “Yes!”

1 comment:

LO said...

I can tell you about using cloth diapers, having been a diaperer in the Jurassic period - about the same time frame when you were being diapered.

I and my mommy circle engaged the diaper service, which came once a week to take the dirty diapers away and leave a supply of nice clean ones. We thought they were softer on the baby's behind than disposable but it was worth paying the service to not have to deal quite so directly with what would be necessary to get them clean.

Of course, either way - service or Mom - cloth diapers entail their own environmental impact in the water, detergent and energy to run the washer/dryer and deliver (hot as possible!) water to the task. I have no clue whether that's more or less negative environmental impact than disposables.

I do think a more biodegradable diaper would be a huge success on all dimensions of green - what's related to the earth, and what's in the manufacturers' sales results. And I'm genuinely interested in anything you and your current mommy-cohorts have to say on this topic.

But to me, that's the price of entry into this conversation. My diapering days are over but my memory of them is vivid, so I don't want to hear anything from anybody who hasn't spent a few years on daily diaper detail!