Marketing sustainability: by Ogilvy and Mather

Buried in a design article, I found a link to a report that Ogilvy and Mather (yes, that Ogilvy) wrote about how to marketing sustainable and environmentally friendly products and services.

I suggest that everyone with an interest read at least the executive summary, but here is the basics:

  1. All the fear mongering of environmental destruction scares people from caring more than scaring them into action.

  2. The pricing and marketing have created a small market of the rich and women into being interested in this issue. The 80% non-rich, and men in general are alienated by these products.

  3. To tap into the majority, we have to go to what motivates them. Make sustainable product normal, reasonably priced, familiar and attract people to these products through positive marketing. A comparison that the report makes is imagine marketing Budweiser versus Stella Artois.

My take: Pretty damning to the whole (largely) pretentious way that the issue has been dealt with in design. All of these conferences, “accords”, “design is the problem” quotes, “Massive Change” etc has been hurting the movement.

Personally, I’ve moved products closer to the goals of recyclability, reduction of waste, etc more through arguing that it doesn’t cost more (at least to improve on what we had done) and just doing it than through any kind of other argument. If it’s that way with my clients, I would imagine it would be that way with the general market.

The Knitting Channel???

some spam filter thing. should be tiny /3st5hm2 no space between tiny and url


This seems like a solution to a symptom, rather that addressing some ways to understand or influence behavior. One framework for human behavior suggests that for a person to plan to behave in a certain way, they need to believe there is a benefit, feel as though important people to them would approve, and have the opportunity to do so.

So maybe for a person to purchase a sustainable product, they need to believe there is a net benefit, cost vs. function (and by function I don’t mean utility alone!), they need to see important people to them also care about the issue of sustainability, and finally have the opportunity to purchase the product, so access, cost etc.

I think this is different than making the perception of a product seem “normal”. Additionally, the pricing and marketing that make the products seem elitist may be playing more against the approval of an important individual or group than the actual cost of access.

I agree that it is important to know what motivates, but normality is not necessarily the motivator. 914, I think you have hit on something really important in the pretentiousness, but I don’t think it is similar to that of the difference between Bud and Stella. Stella is successfully marketed towards a different set of people than Bud, the people who buy Stella may see a benefit to the prestige associated with the brand and a superior taste, and the people they associate would approve of their partaking in what Stella represents, as opposed to Bud. Stella is readily available to this group which converts intention to behavior.

Anyone know of any failed sustainable products? I would be happy to attempt to analyse one based on this theory.

Richard & Lew: Yes, it’s a tinyurl. How is that spam?

There you go…

Carton: Failed sustainable product…lots out there, most forgotten. First Honda Insight? Bobble bottle (that is failed, right?)? Smart car in North America?

I’ll keep thinking of a better example.

I think one of the points brought up about about making sustainable products normal, is one of the fastest ways of going green. I believe corporations need to become more involved in ecological design, and not just offer a green or natural version of a product, but to make all products green. But it’s not all up to the manufactures, we as consumers need to be more aware of the products we are buying and the impact they have on our environment. If we don’t become more responsible about the way we live, things like health care and gas prices may be the least of our worries.

Also, the EV1, produced by GM, was a sustainable vehicle that also failed in the 90’s, along with a number of vehicles like the Honda Insight.