'Socially conscious" shopping goals drive 54 percent of older Americans according to a recent survey by AARP. This means more than 40 million baby boomers are also "green boomers" who say they are more likely to purchase environmentally friendly products and use services from companies that are socially responsible.
Older Americans also make up the most affluent segment of the U.S. population and have the most discretionary income -- $24,000 a year per household -- according to The Conference Board. Given these facts, the Better Business Bureau offers advice to help guide your company's social responsibility efforts to boomers and other consumers.
Interestingly, baby boomers are increasingly turning to online and mobile channels to research companies and comparison shop for a wide variety of products and services such as health and wellness information, travel and entertainment, real estate, and financial services.
A recent report from eMarketer notes that baby boomers and silver surfers, or over-60s, are also becoming more interested in online news and user-generated content as well.
Many green marketing efforts are designed to cater to younger and more active consumers of products, services and media. However, businesses need to remember that both boomers and millennials have lots of money to spend, and focusing green marketing on the younger demographic to the exclusion of boomers could be a very expensive mistake.
Whether baby boomers or the younger generation of millennials, the consumer trend of caring about the impact of personal spending on the global stage is expected to spread. A recent survey by the marketing firm Tiller found that among all ages surveyed, 49 percent said they would aim to be greener in 2008.
Many products advertised as "green" or "organic" can sway purchasing decisions, but companies can also position themselves as socially conscious at a corporate level to attract customers. Such position begs the question though, what does it mean to be green and how can you communicate it in your advertising?
To help promote your company's green efforts to all audiences, the BBB offers the following advice for making "green" claims in advertising and marketing:
- Tell the truth. A recent study by a Canadian-based marketing firm found that many products aren't as earth-friendly as they say they are. While most products reviewed made exaggerated claims, a few carried outright lies -- mostly involving supposed certification from watchdog organizations. Few things destroy a company's credibility with consumers faster than false advertising -- tell the truth in all marketing efforts.
- Make concrete claims. An honest advertiser will not make vague statements such as "environmentally friendly" or "sustainable" without providing solid examples to back up the claim. If your packaging is made from recycled paper, then say so. If your company has reduced energy costs, then brag about! Making fuzzy claims, however, can get you into trouble with any and all consumer segments.
- Provide evidence. Being a green company isn't just about putting a recycling bin by the copier. You also need to be able to explain how you're making the world a better place. Consider creative ways of quantifying your company's impact such as: How many hours have your employees volunteered? Who has benefited and how have they benefited from your firm's efforts.
- Get a stamp of approval. While there is no universal "Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval" for green claims, there are independent third-party organizations that will certify your environmentally friendly statements such as EcoLogo (www.ecologo.org) or Green Seal (www.greenseal.org).
The recent BBB/Gallup Trust in Business Index found that less than half of American consumers (49 percent) say they have a great deal (12 percent) or quite a lot (37 percent) of trust in businesses that they regularly deal with (www.us.bbb.org/trustindex), so consumer's ability to trust your claims matters -- and certification helps.
l Get expert help. It's clear that boomers and millennials, and everyone in between, are becoming increasingly interested in environmental issues and corporate responsibility. As a result of the green-frenzy, many boutique marketing and advertising firms have sprung up that specialize in branding companies as environmentally friendly and socially responsible. Getting professional PR help is typically costly; however, the rewards could be substantial in terms of revenue, reputation and goodwill.
KELVIN COLLINS IS THE PRESIDENT AND CEO OF THE BETTER BUSINESS BUREAU OF CENTRAL GEORGIA & THE CSRA INC., WHICH SERVES 41 COUNTIES FROM AUGUSTA TO MACON. QUESTIONS OR COMPLAINTS ABOUT A SPECIFIC COMPANY OR CHARITY SHOULD BE REFERRED TO (800) 763-4222 OR INFO@CSRA.BBB.ORG.