stereotypes & buying green

The fun thing about being a Midwesterner in the Northeast is puncturing the outrageous stereotypes that many, if not all, Northeasterners hold about those of us from flyover country. Like the junior AE who told me that he didn’t think that Midwesterners were internet savvy because they didn’t have enough money to afford computers like people from New York could.

I retaliated later by taping some lutefisk to the underside of his desk figuring that, while not exactly a mature response, it was at least pretty funny.

The impetus for relaying this story is the AdAge article today that is shocked, shocked that red states are as green in their purchase behavior as blue states are. Who would have thought that those bumpkins in the middle of the country would actually buy green, right?

Stupid Republicans, they don’t even vote Democrat.

This sort of reaction, and the fact that this is even news at all, is simply moral vanity coupled with a large dose of condescension.

Yes, the Midwesterner in me is bothered.

It is interesting, however, that AdAge says “regardless of where they’re sold, green products are getting big — and profitable” the same week that Brandweek runs an article about P&G’s finding that only 5-10% of all consumers buy products chiefly because they are green.

If that is the case then how could the average number of “green” shoppers double each week (between October 2007 and March 2008 ) as Catalina research has found?

It’s likely that Catalina is counting products like P&G’s very own concentrated laundry detergent in the smaller bottles (saves on packaging) or Poland Spring’s less plastic bottles, products where there is no performance trade-off.

P&G believes that the vast majority of consumers (50-75%) are indifferent to environmental issues but that if the product is at parity with the competition then its “green-ness” can be differentiating. Basically, it can be a tie-breaker at shelf.

It’s a great thing to have because it is absolutely imperative that companies be environmentally conscious, but green is not going to revolutionize marketing. No matter what AdAge might report, I am going to stick with P&G on this one and go out on a limb to say that, though people everywhere seem to be buying green products, it’s likely that only 5-10% of people buy those products because they are green.

The rest buy based on more pragmatic concerns like performance and price.

Thanks to companies like P&G, in some categories the pragmatic matches up with the green. And that, to end a high note, that is something to be celebrated.

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6 responses to “stereotypes & buying green

  1. It is always funny to hear things like that as I am from Kansas City (little known fact… Kansas City is in Missouri – not Kansas). We even have that high speed internets now. In fact, my neighbor just got one of them 56k modems – we all go over there and check our AOL mails. Ohh, he even has an internet web booster that he downloaded off some hacking site.

    I think most midwestern folk are just as technology advanced as the rest of the country – well, as long as they are not out in the middle of nowhere. I guess most people from the coasts assume all of us live out in the middle of nowhere. I bet there are just as many technology clueless people in NY as there are in Arkansas.

  2. The numbers are so high because of how companies classify “green” products. For example, Wal-Mart now ONLY carries concentrated laundry detergent. So all those red-staters who shop Wal-Mart have no choice but to buy green. That’s also why the percentage is so low for people who buy products specifically because they’re green.

  3. Gosh golly! Taping the lutefisk! You got him good now, you betcha huh!

    As a native NYer, I’m always amazed at how quickly so many transplants become “New Yorkers” mocking their parents and siblings along with the very states they spent the first 95% of their lives and pretty much anyone who doesn’t live in Manhattan or Brooklyn.

  4. @MattM – You sort of got my point – people don’t care that they are buying green and only do when the product performance is at parity with the “non-green” products – but then you miss my point about the red-blue divide. The sneering “they shop at Wal*Mart” comment pretty much encapsulates the whole attitude.

    @Toad – I’ve lived all over the country and, in doing so, realized that every part has its own foibles and failings. I can make fun of the Midwest with the best of them, but it’s good natured. What bothers me are the people – and they are everywhere – who have never been to another part of the country but make blanket condescending statements about everyone who is not them. It is ignorant, even if it comes from Clayton Masterson III over a cocktail at the Gansevoort.

    I like people and, though I may not think that buying an SUV to commute to work or paying three times as much for laundry detergent because you are too good for a chain store or any of the foibles that people around this country make, I still like people. And respect them. And am happy that I live in a place where people can make what I consider to be bad decisions and it’s okay. Elitism is out.

  5. @DailyBiz – there was no sneer in my comment. It’s just a fact. Take a look at the geographic distribution of Wal-Mart stores and the demographic information of their shoppers. It’s by-in-large red-staters. And when a huge retailer like Wal-Mart forces red-staters to buy certain green products, the sheer numbers they produce skews the results.

  6. @MattM – it is easy to overlay tone onto written words and I must have done it here, apologies. Your point is a good one, and one that I agree with, especially when you note that retailers like W*M demand that green products perform and cost at parity to the non-green ones. People don’t want to give anything up while they’re being good.

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