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Turning Down the Green Noise

The green marketing revolution has certainly tapped a cultural vein, but it appears the flood of messages coming our way is putting us in danger of an overdose. Recent studies indicate that people are feeling a bit overwhelmed with eco messages, and marketers know this means trouble: The ensuing confusion will not only harm the cause, it’ll take a bite out of sales, too. One report cited in a recent story in The New York Times stated that consumers are buying as much as 55% fewer green products, due in part to the message overload. And a Harris Poll from last week showed that many consumers want to help the environment, but don’t know how.

Supermarkets contribute to all the “green noise” (as it’s come to be known) simply because they’re outlets for other peoples’ products. With them come the label claims, promotional signs and product packaging all shouting for attention. Which is greener? Which is better for the environment? Which is safer for my family? Which is best for this green-stress headache I suddenly have?

The questions are vexing to consumers, and potentially troublesome for the industry, because we all know that shoppers who can’t decide what to buy often end up not buying at all.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Just as retailers have begun to guide consumers on how to make healthy food choices, so too can they help them make green decisions. It all starts with focusing on the lifestyle as opposed to the products. Make a list of ten things that shoppers can do to reduce their carbon footprint, for example, and post it in circulars and around the store. Or hire a regional eco coordinator to develop promotions and stay up on top of trends.

Customers are looking for answers right now, and so they’ll appreciate any help they can get. They’ll also be happy not to have another green product pitch thrown their way.