A study released today by GfK Research revealed sizable reductions in American consumers’ willingness to pay a premium for so-called “green,” or environmentally friendly products. The study was conducted as part of the research company’s “Green Gauge Report,” which measures consumer attitudes toward environmental issues.
According to study director Timothy Kenyon, “green awareness is indeed pervasive – but consumers can perceive ‘green’ claims as a negative in some contexts…For example, while terms like organic and recyclable have strong positive resonance, they are often associated with higher prices.”
The study found that one of the biggest drops in willingness-to-pay was for cars the pollute less; between 2008 and 2012, consumers dropped 13 percentage points to 49%. AdvertisingAge put together an infographic that captures some of the key data points the Green Gauge report found:
Diane Crispell, also of GfK, was quoted in AdvertisingAge with a different take. She said that because marketers had overpromised the benefits of green products, there is now a “kind of heightened distrust” of these brand claims.
These could be ominous indicators for companies that have been scurrying to ramp up investment in green products, line extensions, and advertising. Even business schools hurtled after the “green” trend. (My MBA alma mater, Cornell University’s Johnson Graduate School of Management, has staked its reputation on building-out their “Center for Sustainable Global Enterprise,” MBA-speak for “green” business studies.)
Time for marketers to reevaluate whether they have been doing a little bit too much preaching and not enough listening to their consumers. When the economy’s struggling, asking consumers to pay more for items like biodegradable plastic packaging may just be insupportable.