The Failure of Green Product Brands

Dr Joseph Zammit-Lucia, the president of WOLFoundation, stated that the reason why brands failed is because of the social or environmental consciousness, which is only one part of what are much boarder and more complex cultural shifts. He also emphasizes that contrary to popular belief, ‘lack of consumer demand’ does not take a part of the failure. If a company tries to build their green product brand in that kind of environment by using traditional marketing paradigms, the chance for success is quite low. Moreover, they also failed because their branding efforts were not relevant to the complexity of current cultural change, resulting in sending message to the wrong audience.

Dr Joseph’s statement is quite true, said Jennifer Rice, the founder of Fruitful Strategy; particularly when it comes to the possibility of higher demand that the marketers have not got the idea on how to capture value-based buyers. Rice then adds that the reason why green product brands fail is due to the way companies have ignored to use paradigms of traditional marketing to develop new products. She strengthens her idea by giving two examples: Nike’s Considered and Clorox Green Works.

Nike’s Considered Line

Rice analyzes that the reason why Nike’s Considered Line failed is because there was a brand extendibility issue. “Customers failed to give Nike permission for a shoe that didn’t align with its performance image. A forest dweller shoe is more in alignment with Ecco, not Nike; this is a classic brand extendibility failure that likely had nothing to do with sustainability. If Nike had launched a sustainable performance shoe brand, the results may have been very different. And who knows, maybe not. The lesson for Nike and other brands is to invest in knowing exactly where customers give permission and where they don’t,” explained Rice as mentioned on Sustainable Brands.

The issue can be avoided by knowing your customers and staying the focus on why they buy your brands. You also need to recognize what percentage of your current customer base resonates with values-based products in order to grow and retain the particular segment. Leveraging the traditional marketing paradigms of targeting, direct, and personalized marketing is also can be considered as a smart move to avoid brand extendibility issue. Through the method, you are able to portray your values-based segment without displeasing those who do not care about your product. For example, Nike could be introducing Flyknit shoes in their targeted publication and sites that capture the interest of eco or socially conscious customers.

Clorox Green Works

In the case of Clorox Green Works, the problem lies on segmentation issue. Even so, Rice does not consider it as failure since as one of the first green brands, Green Works revealed that in fact there is a market available for green products out of Whole Foods. However, after capturing more than 40% share of natural cleaning products within a year of their launching and getting their success, the brand hit a plateau. Whilst the recession and consumer’s unwillingness to pay more takes part in it, lack of understanding consumer segments makes it even worse.

Clorox restricted their own growth by chopping off both ends of consumer spectrum. They use insider language and higher prices which make the consumer turn their back to the products. Rice states that Clorox Green Works is intended to lure a mass-market shopper, but the majority of them are probably turned off by the name, not to mention they refuse to pay more only for the sake of benefit. Moreover, they also lacked of distribution and credibility with bright greens. “To be fair, Green Works was never designed for the bright green buyer. But with a name, pricing and brand positioning geared to green buyers, we see a fundamental mismatch,” stated Rice on as quoted on Sustainable Brands.

In order to avoid a repeat of Clorox Green Works’ case, Rice suggests to do not use words such as ‘eco’ and ‘green’ in the name brand or marketing and stay focus on what your consumer cares about since it will lead you to a successful brand. Instead, you can use options like a subtle language, experiential cues, or an ingredient brand to capture values-based buyers. You also need to make sure that your parent company is able to establish product credibility. Keep in mind that you do not charge more for green benefits, but you can do so for other benefits and put the additional R&D cost to the higher margins in order to create a higher-value product.