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Make Your Green Claims Mean Something

By: Sourabh Sharma and Scott Garrison
Posted: June 24, 2014, from the July 2014 issue of GCI Magazine.
Beauty product bottles decorated with a green vegetation motif

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Put the key benefit first, then tie “green” to it. A claim must be centered on something important to consumers and make a clear value promise that will drive purchase. An emphasis on sustainability may not be as motivating to consumers, but green claims are not generally rejected outright. This provides an opportunity for marketers to make green claims more meaningful by tying the green element in with a key benefit of the product.

Rather than saying “All of our ingredients are naturally sourced to ensure a better tomorrow,” a corrective skin care product can more effective layer this message into a clear value promise. Something along the lines of “Reduce skin blemishes using only naturally sourced ingredients” is more effective because it messages around the element of being environmentally friendly while still addressing the core concern of the consumer: reducing skin blemishes.

In this manner, a marketer can promise the consumer a key benefit while ensuring the brand is seen as environmentally friendly.

Avoid jargon. Especially with regard to green claims, it is important to avoid using jargon in a marketing claim. On such a sensitive issue, the use of jargon can alienate consumers and lead to the feeling of distrust that is so prevalent with these types of claims.

Sustainability, in particular, is often cited as a reason to like a green claim, but only when the word itself is implied rather than explicitly stated. Consumers hear the word “sustainable” so frequently, often with few results from the companies promising it, that it has become a cliché. Including it in a claim is neither unique nor is it motivating. Saying that a toner can provide “Hydrated, enriched skin with natural minerals and rosewater” can be interpreted as the brand doing something right in the direction of sustainability.

With this in mind, marketers should do their best to avoid jargon that leads to feelings of distrust. It is more effective to allude to being environmentally friendly by describing how a product’s green elements support product benefits.

True Green

The process of writing brand or product claims can be tricky because there are many messages to relay to consumers, and typically there is very little space in which to do it. While it is always recommended to focus a claim on a key benefit or value promise, there also are situations in which being environmentally friendly, given its growing importance in the world, is useful.

Ultimately, a brand must be true to its roots and consistent with its brand legacy in order to make green claims work to its benefit.

Sourabh Sharma comes to SKIM with a keen eye for understanding consumer behavior. He adds perspective to marketing research from his years in brand management and product development at L’Oréal, where he launched hair color and makeup products for brands in Asia and North America. With a multifaceted background, Sharma enables the firms he works with to acquire a stronger understanding of their end users. Furthermore, he strives to extract value from the evolving brand-to-consumer interface through his social media research.

Scott Garrison is a manager at SKIM. He is experienced in conducting marketing communication development projects for consumer products, beauty and technology brands. He oversees SKIM’s claim development methods with a focus on emotional claims.