BfG News Issue 5 - Editor's Column: Green Innovation

05 Oct 2007|Added Value

 At Added Value, we believe a responsible marketing strategy creates an excellent springboard for innovation.  At the least, it can give greater resonance to incremental innovations that would otherwise be deemed cosmetic. At best, it can serve as a motor for powerful, new, consumer relevant ideas that are “disruptive” in the best sense of the word. 

There are clearly growing incentives to innovate on the environmental front. Our ‘Branding for Good’ research shows that consumer attitudinal shifts are now translating to behaviour changes. Up to 1 in 3 consumers are already modifying their behaviours to buy products that are recyclable, limit pollution or reduce carbon emissions. Importantly, the most successful green innovations give equal or even greater weight to the intrinsic consumer benefits as they do to the eco-friendly aspects. This acknowledges that consumers want to make a positive difference without feeling preached to or deprived of pleasure.

And the list of innovative green concepts keeps getting longer. We all know the Green and Blacks, M&S and Ecover examples. But there is a whole new generation of products and services that are redefining eco-innovation across a  broad spectrum of categories – see this month’s selection.

The question for many is how to get green innovation “right”.  As with any innovation initiative, eco-innovation must jump the RDC hurdle:

–   It must be relevant: addressing a real consumer need or desire. That means being clear on what consumers expect, both in terms of new product or service benefits AND eco-benefits.

–   It must be different: offering something the competition doesn’t. Thus the need for good green benchmarking.

–   And it must be credible: in line with what consumers or customers expect from the brand. There are many ways to go green and each brand needs to find the one that they can “own”.

UK supermarket chain Sainsbury’s, with the help of Added Value, paid heed to consumer needs when developing their own-label ethical cleaning product range ‘Clean Home’, due to launch this week. Born out of insights developed by Added Value, the range addresses that although the majority of consumers are now receptive to green, they are not prepared to compromise on product efficiency. These consumers are more likely to trial a mainstream brand that makes being green more accessible, than opt for a niche player which makes a definitive statement about their choice. 

The stakes are clearly higher for green products than for mainstream launches. Credibility takes on a whole new meaning in a world where marketers are increasingly accused of greenwashing. Careful thought must be given to ensure that new products or services promising green benefits truly deliver them. The best green innovations are the ones where a company can use its core competencies to deliver a superior eco-benefit and do so in a way that is true to its brand DNA. When Ariel promises consumers they can turn down the temperature when washing, they are credible because their image of high performance gives them the authority to deliver an effective washing power even at low temperatures. 

But credibility in the new responsible brand world goes beyond what consumers think the brand can do, to what both consumers and stakeholders think the brand should do. This means that companies need to begin by having a clear point of view on where their responsibilities lie, which in turn means having analysed their current environmental and social footprint.  We will explore this in more depth at our ‘Branding for Good’ summit in March next year – join us.

Despite all the sceptics who suggest that green is just a passing fancy, the future for those brands that commit seriously to a greener path is no doubt brighter than those who close their eyes and wish it all away.  The key is to treat such projects not as tactical, but as the strategic innovations they are.  

Leslie Pascaud,
Director Responsible Marketing Practice
Added Value France


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