Marti Barletta: Are You Getting the Most Green From Green Marketing?

The Answer Is No If You're Not Targeting Women

By Published on .

"Green" is no longer just the color of money -- it's the color of marketing, too.

Magazines, newspapers, TV shows, conferences, Hollywood celebrities and ads are sprouting up all over touting that "green" is the way to go. That's because green is here to stay, because it means money -- money in, not money out.

Marti Barletta is a recognized thought-leader on marketing to women and author of 'PrimeTime Women: How to Win the Hearts, Minds, and Business of Boomer Big Spenders' (January 2007). Her trend-setting book, 'Marketing to Women,' is in its second edition and has been published in more than 15 languages. She is founder-CEO of The TrendSight Group, a think tank specializing in marketing to women.

Chances are, companies are going green for the right reasons. "An Inconvenient Truth" made it clear how global warming can have an impact on all of us. But eco-pioneers are likely to find themselves the beneficiaries of an unexpected side effect: increased sales and share. Why? Women. Women make 80% of all consumer buying decisions and control at least 50% of business-to-business purchasing, too. In these days of commoditization and overwhelming consumer choice, one of the most compelling deciding factors affecting women's decisions is their view of a company's "corporate halo."

According to the GolinHarris Change 2006 Corporate Citizenship survey, women are significantly more likely than men to put their purchasing power behind brands that are good corporate citizens. According to the study, when a company is a "good corporate citizen":

  • 46% of women will try a company's products for the first time if they are not currently or formerly a customer
  • 38% of women will increase, start buying or come back to the company's products
  • 36% of women will try new and different products from the company not previously considered
Fifty-nine percent of women put "environment, ecology and energy" right at the top of their "good corporate citizen" checklist -- tied for first place with "human rights, civil rights, animal rights" (which is more the domain of countries, not companies). Give her green products, packaging and programs, and she'll hand her greenbacks to you instead of your competitors.

As Susan Puflea, head of the GolinHarris corporate citizenship and social responsibility practice, explains, "Good corporate citizenship resonates with both men and women. However, women tend to be more discerning critics with higher expectations -- and they demand a holistic approach to 'doing good.' With the purchasing power of women and the way they respond to corporate citizenship, the companies that earn their support reap the benefit of real business results."

Such companies include British grocery superstore Tesco, which is putting new labels on its 70,000 products so that shoppers can compare carbon costs in the same way that they can compare nutritional information. The stores will also offer more efficient electrical products at lower prices and has started offering loyalty card points to consumers who do not take shopping bags.

Because women control the checkbook in U.S. households (and the investments, insurance decisions and credit cards), Bank of America's new environmental programs are sure to pull more share from women. It's launching the Eco-friendly Credit Card, which will generate a contribution to an environmental organization with every credit purchase. Furthermore, with the WorldPoints Rewards for the Environment program, cardholders may redeem their WorldPoints rewards for environmentally friendly merchandise or donate them to organizations that invest in greenhouse gas reductions. Bank of America is even bringing its eco-friendly practices right to Midtown Manhattan. Once its New York headquarters is complete, every drop of rain will be captured for use; scraps from the cafeteria will be fermented to fuel a generator producing more than half the building's electricity; and the air exhausted from the building will be cleaner, making the tower a giant air filter. Meanwhile, the plywood barrier around the construction site serves as a giant poster board to communicate to passersby all 15 to 20 of the building's "green" innovations.

It is women who will change the world and make it a greener place. Women like Diane MacEachern, who is launching a national campaign and website,, urging women to shift at least $1,000 of their annual household spending to green products. "We could be the most powerful force for economic and environmental change in the 21st century if we focused our money where it could make the biggest difference," Ms. MacEachern says on her website. "If a million people did that, it would have a $1 billion impact." Big Green Purse has done the research for busy women everywhere and has made it its business to recommend products that are really green at affordable prices.

As the environmental movement continues to gain traction, eco-friendly initiatives will serve in the short run as an incremental point of difference, and in the long run as a loyalty insulator. But they will only work if they target the greenest consumers of all, women. CMOs who go green by targeting savvy women consumers will be able to count their blessings not only in warm and fuzzy feelings, but also in sales and market share.

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You can read a longer version of this column on Ms. Barletta's Trendsights newsletter.
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