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It’s Not Easy Being a Green Shopper

I couldn’t resist sharing a childhood favorite!

We’ve all been there…trying to decide if buying a “green” product is worth the cost and benefits.  In fact, in a recent Media Post Marketing Daily article, Aaron Baar cites several studies showing how consumers struggle with achieving the full environmental benefits of green products.  This often stems from the lack of information or resources available to them.

Research shows that most consumers have every intention of carrying out their green product responsibility.  But this becomes a challenge when, for example, a compostable product is purchased but the resources needed to compost are unavailable in their area.

Then there are retailers investing heavily in LEED Certified environments…not an easy task. But big brands like Target, Walgreens, and Stop & Shop have made it happen.  In fact, Walgreens hopes to the build the first Net Zero Energy store in Evanston, IL, producing equal or greater energy than it consumes.  An amazing feat, really.

But how does this benefit translate to local shoppers?  Will they understand the importance of retailers investing in their community… and the environment, overall?

I’ve been to retailers and QSRs with a LEED certified emblem plaque proudly displayed on their front door.  Initially, I think, “very cool” but then, truthfully, I forget about it.  The ultimate benefits, the impact for me…and my community…seem so distant, so obscure.

Sadly, it doesn’t leave a lasting impression nor provide a true distinction as to what makes this brand so special.  Why should I put my money behind this brand versus another?  How does it really touch my life or the lives of those I care about?  In theory, ‘green’ sounds great.  But what does this really mean?

Alas, this problem has a fairly simple solution AND presents a perfect growth opportunity for brands.  If you’ve already made the large investment by taking a stand in offering green products and/or retail space, you are more than halfway there.

It’s time to educate consumers and clarify your position in their minds.  In other words, you need to answer these questions:

  • What are the specific benefits of your green mission – for them, their family and friends, and their community at-large?
  • (Consumer has green product in hand and ready to dispose) — What do they do with it?

Finally — and I can’t stress this enough — be specific.  In fact…why not make the instructional materials fun, interesting and educational?  If you’re targeting moms, why not get the kids involved?

You have their attention — so use this opportunity to really make it your own.


Front-line employees are your brand

Many companies pour millions of dollars into advertising campaigns and brand identity projects, yet seem to forget that the way that the front-line staff interacts with the customer can undo years of marketing in an instant.

Managers need to take seriously the idea that a customer or prospect will form an opinion about your brand based on their experience interacting with the company much faster than they ever will from advertising.  And it will be much more strongly held.  Once this notion is accepted, hiring, training, and process decisions need to change to make sure the front-line staffers are up to the demands of the position.

I ‘m sure we all have customer service horror stories.  My point in writing this post isn’t to bash anyone or to vent over some perceived slight.  It is to point out the tremendous damage that can be done by just one careless, apathetic, or rude employee.

My experience with a major airline serves as an example of the long term financial cost of shabby treatment.  Through most of the 1990’s, I was working in consulting positons that required a fair amount of travel.  Like most business travelers, I was pretty loyal to a single airline for the miles.

I decided to use some of the miles I had accumulated to take a trip.  I got to the airport and found that I was assigned a center seat all the way in the back.  When I inquired with the gate agent about the possibility of getting a different seat, the response was “for what you paid for that ticket, you’re lucky to have any seat at all.”


What did I do?

I started flying another airline.  In the 8 or 9 years (and several hundred thousand miles) since that incident, I haven’t spent another dime to fly with that carrier.  I don’t plan to anytime soon, either.  Now I own a business and have staff that travels – but not on that airline.

It’s pretty easy to see how that incident cost the business well over a million dollars in the long run.

To be completely fair, there were plenty of other things to be unhappy about with that company’s service and that incident alone didn’t drive me away.  What it did do, though, was cause me to become much less forgiving of the other issues.

This happens every day in businesses large and small.

How much do you invest in the people who deal directly with the customer?  Do you even know what a customer’s real experience with your front line staff is?  Does your front-line staff have the skill and the authority to make the right decisions for your brand?