More evidence that “save the planet” is bad messaging: Suzanne Shelton of the Shelton Group reports that her firm’s recent national survey of people identified as green buyers found six myths about green “consumers,” including that their top concern is the environment and that their main motivation when reducing energy use is to “save the planet.” The stat there: “When asked the most important reason to reduce energy consumption, 73 percent chose ‘to reduce my bills/control costs’ and only 26 percent chose ‘to lessen my impact on the environment.’”
This shouldn’t really be surprising. A growing body of research suggests that we’re hardwired to focus on the immediate and undervalue future benefits. Marketing gurus have been hammering home for decades the need to answer the key buyer question, “What’s in it for me?” And really, how would you expect people who are treated and see themselves as “consumers” to behave? (A topic I ranted on recently.)
Yet “save the planet” and its variations continue to appear in marketing and advertising by sophisticated companies and nonprofits. Either they believe there are more treehuggers out there than there are; they’re committed environmentalists themselves who can’t believe that everyone else won’t see the light when it’s pointed out to them (the classic error of mistaking yourself for your market); or they just want to paint themselves as green by communicating that they think saving the planet is a good idea. Regardless, it’s time for a new pitch.