The Sustainability Secret that both NPR and NASCAR Know: Green Doesn’t Sell

Aug 22, 2011   //   by Bradley Short   //   Investors & Stakeholders, Marketing & Communication, The Environment  //  2 Comments

Very rarely does one get the chance to talk about these two cultural opposites in the same sentence.  But in different ways, they both know one fundamental truth.   Green doesn’t sell. 

What’s in it for the customer?

Would you rather buy the “green” refrigerator or the one that saves you hundreds of dollars in energy bills?  Well, luckily, they’re probably the same thing.  It all boils down branding.

Then how do green products make it? 

The same way all products do!  They provide superior value to customers (and make sure that they know it).  Green provides some psychological value in and of itself, but that’s not the main reason green products sell.  To be viable, green products must perform as well or better than their non-green counterparts.  The fortunate thing is, they usually do!

Traditional green marketing made the mistake of letting “green” be the main selling point.  The focus was on the credentials, not the user.  Like all other marketing, the focus has to be on the customer.  Every product must start and end with the customer in mind.

NPR reported on a branding failure

Last week, NPR ran a story about wastewater-to-drinking water conversion and the resistance that water companies were facing.  Even though converted wastewater is actually chemically purer than river or aquifer water, the public still pushed back because psychological aversion to water that was, in their mind, still associated with sewage.  The former wastewater was the “greener,” cleaner, more logical choice, but nobody wanted to think about where it came from.  The water company needed to sell the water on the premise that it’s the pure choice, not the green choice.

How NASCAR got it right

Leslie Guevarra made waves last week with her article about NASCAR’s sustainability efforts.  Though it may take a lot to get past the seemingly contradictory marriage of NASCAR and sustainability, the article shows an organization that gets it, at least from a branding point of view.  Stock cars on the circuit now use a cleaner burning ethanol fuel, which is, by most accounts, greener.  It also resulted in a horsepower increase in the cars.  Which point do you think NASCAR talked about the most?

Green doesn’t sell, but you should still make green products 

Slapping “eco” or “green” on a product doesn’t cut it, but letting sustainable principals guide the way you make, market, and sell does.  Nobody cares about green lip service, but the value that true sustainability adds to customers is undeniable.  So, you’d probably do well to take a sustainability tip from NASCAR, as crazy as that sounds, and sell the benefit, not the green.