How to Reach Green Consumers — Using Psychographics To Define Your Target Market

A recent article in Business Green discusses several ways of classifying the green consumer and the issues related to reaching them. Though demographics, the tried and true way of sorting out consumers into groups by income, age, education, etc. works well in some categories, it’s not as helpful in segmenting green consumers.

Enter Psychographics, often used by niche marketers, it can be an effective tool for eco entrepreneurs.

  • Demographics looks at characteristics of people that include age, income, education, occupation, household size, home ownership and home value, among other factors.
  • Psychographics delves deeper into people’s lifestyles and behaviors, including their interests and values.

green consumers

While segments of green consumers vary according to the source you use (check out this hilarious post that outlines some of them), I’ll use the Natural Marketing Institute’s labels for LOHAS ( lifestyles of health and sustainability) consumers.

  • LOHAS — very progressive on environment and society, looking for ways to do more; not too concerned about price (16%).
  • Naturalites — primarily concerned about personal health and wellness, and use many natural products; would like to do more to protect the environment (25%).
  • Conventionals — practical, like to see the results of what they do; interested in green products that make sense (e.g., save money) in the long run (23%).
  • Drifters — not too concerned about environment, figuring we’ve got time to fix environmental problems; don’t necessarily buy a lot of green products, though may like to “be seen” in Whole Foods to enhance their image (23%).
  • Unconcerned — have other priorities, not really sure what green products are available, and probably wouldn’t be interested anyway; they buy products strictly on price, value, quality, and convenience (14%).

// Notice the decided lack of information on demographics. Both drifters and LOHAS might live in upper middle class neighborhoods. A college degree may be held by both the Unconcerned and the Naturalites. Income? Well, we do know that green products tend to be on the more expensive side but, a true devotee just cuts in other areas.

And so targeting green consumers gets messy. Identifying which segment of the green market is most likely to purchase your product is the first step. That is, your product fills a particular need…which segment feels the need the most? Now how can we use psychographics to locate the appropriate media and promotional tools to reach that segment?

In general, understanding your targeted segment’s interest and hobbies goes a long way toward reaching them. While deep green, LOHAS consumer might be found doing yoga, driving a Prius and visiting the recycling center, a Naturalite might be more likely to drive an SUV but purchase only organic fruits and vegetables and visit a homeopathic Doctor.

Defining these traits through research and often through simply brainstorming and observing can lead to appropriate media selection and more targeted programs. I’ll talk more about this in a future post and give some examples. In the mean time – how do you define your target consumer using psychographics?

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Related Posts:

4 Questions to Ask Before You Launch an Organic Product

The 4 Green Fashion Consumers – Which One For You?

Natural Marketing Institute, Nielsen Value LOHAS Mart At $209 bn

Image Credit: green lady via Shutterstock

About the Author

Hear Maryanne speak on Social Media for Socially Conscious Brands at Expo East on September 27th! Maryanne Conlin is CPG brand marketer and digital marketing expert, CEO of RedRopes Digital and Partner Digital Strategy, 4GreenPs. A Shorty Award winner for best Green Content on Twitter, she was a member of the IAA team that won the Green Award in 2010 and most recently was a finalist for the PRSA - Los Angeles PRISM awards for social media. She and her team focus on providing strategic marketing direction, custom content for web, mobile and social platforms, social media community management and online promotions and digital advertising solutions for companies in the green, food and Hispanic space. Follow her on Twitter @maryanneconlin
  • Hi MC. Liked your post; I’ve been to the LOHAS conference and sat in on an NMI workshop before, so it was great to see their psychographic categories again. In my day job (R&D for a division of big private company trying to make products that help their consumers make a difference), we’ve been struggling with green consumer segmenting. We’ve trying a slightly different approach — identifying the motivations that drive consumers to act or buy green, then finding commonalities among consumers who strongly relate to a certain motivation. It’s similar to what NMI is doing, but at a more “granual” level (to use a currently over-used biz cliche). Have you heard of anyone doing similar segmenting?

  • MRI (Mediamark Research & Intelligence) just released “green” segmentation, which is based on both attitudinal and behavioral data. They divide US population into 5 distinct groups: Ungreen (no intention or interest to be green), Green at the Supermarket (care only about themselves, like organic foods, pure water, etc. but not concerned about environment), Green in Theory (green according to ther intentions, but not behavior), Green But Only If (green, if affordable or convenient), Green at Their Best (buyers of hybrid cars, green in everything), and Green Advocates (lke Green at Their Best, but taking it further by engaging in political and in environmental groups and causes).

  • Hi Sarah,

    Yes, I have heard of folks using a motivational approach to further define a segment…I’m not sure who is using it in the green segment.

    As Modern Metric mentioned, different groups are slicing the market different ways. My concern in developing a segmenting strategy is always is; do I have “actionable” information. In other words how does the information about the segments relate to media I can buy or programs I can develop –

    Motivation is good because it helps to develop the appropriate message for each segment. More detailed lifestyle information and hobbies helps define the media mix. I think both are important.

  • Excellent post, MC. It.seems to me like we’re thinking much along the same lines, so I thought I’d share my adventure with you.

    My colleagues and I started Earthsense, a new applied marketing company. Our mission is to help companies go beyond the traditional market segmentation products — providing confidence for those companies promoting sustainable products with both strategic and tactical research.

    We fielded a 30,000 person survey in Fall of ’07 and are now in the field collecting our second wave of data (another 30,000 US Adults, 18+). This is a huge endeavor as one might imagine — (ours is the most comprehensive survey of its kind) and our results have proven that you do have to go above and beyond the tried and true methodologies to get your message exposed to ears and eyes that open to a new way of thinking.

    Let’s face it. Who — being human — doesn’t want to be “green”. Everyone wants to breathe clean air, drink clean water, and eat food that isn’t filled with pesticides and poisons. But individuals are motivated by different reasons depending on whether we talking about things we put in our bodies, on our bodies, in our homes or offices, or means of getting around. Motivations span the gamut from health to convenience, from brand loyalty to concern about the earth – and price is absolutely something that even the most committed take into consideration. We’ve noticed a huge disconnect between what people aspire to do — and what they actually can do — based on their location and resources.

    Now, specifically thinking about the differences between demographics and psychographics. It is true that the LOHAS system doesn’t have much of a demographic skew. And the same goes for most of the other surveys/segmentations out there. Divide the whole US population into 6 big groups and what do you expect?

    Additionally, while values and lifestyles (psychographics) are incredibly important for positioning and messaging, they very difficult to make actionable. After all, good “clone” models require similar data on both those whose behaviors you wish to replicate and those prospects you are ranking. Its impossible to get *real* lifestyle data on all prospects, so you default to working with data that you can get on everyone.

    So, we’ve taken a holistic, hybrid approach. In our surveys, we ask all the usual stuff like age, income, gender, race – and attitudes and behaviors and media habits. Then we’ve added things like religion and politics. And a seminal part of our research focuses on those things that go above and beyond the individual. Everything from who you are, how you vote, how big your family is, your income, your race, your religion, your locale — all of it has to be taken into consideration by marketers looking for an opportunity to educate about the benefits of their products. (And that’s what it is, really. We’re not “selling” but rather, we’re offering smart consumers the information they need to make an educated decision at the Point of Choice.)

    For example, if you’re living in an area where farmers’ markets are plentiful— you are more likely to be a locavore. If you have lots of laundry to do , you might buy front loading washers and dryers (which happen to be ecofriendly) because you are trying to cut down on your housework (and saving energy and the planet is a side benefit). When you think about it, it makes so much sense when you consider that local community attributes and regulations can affect your ability to do things like recycle or carpool.

    So, what have we learned? Weather, taxes, location of stores, demand for products, transportation alternatives, traffic, and pollution — all of these things can help us zero in on those people whose living conditions and lifestyles create greater awareness of the issues. Bottom line? It is still true that birds of a feather flock together. They just happen to be in smaller flocks, and they use word-of-mouth, the internet, and other social systems to spread influence.

    We like to think that over time — green will become colorless. If companies truly integrate sustainable manufacturing practices — the consumer won’t have to think twice. In the meantime, we’re like mad social scientists, analyzing tons of data, isolating pockets of attitude, motivation, behavior and adoption, helping businesses prioritize markets, stores, media choices to stay green while going green.

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