Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Not Everyone likes Green

The media might have you believing that in order to survive, you have to "go green."

Not so fast...

Forget the Environment Say the 'Never Greens'

July 13, 2008

-By Jim Edwards

William Coverley has nine cars, including four Porsches, a pickup and a Ferrari. Last week, he bought a 10th—a 2008 GMC Yukon XL—because he needs something to tow his boat. The three-quarter-ton SUV gets a dismal 14 miles per gallon in traffic.

As consumers flee gigantic trucks for environmentally friendly small cars and hybrids, Coverley is an increasingly rare beast: He wants one of the biggest gas-guzzlers that $40,000 can buy. "Do I care that I'm wasting gas? No, I really don't," the Hudson, Ohio, resident said.

Coverley is part of a small but persistent new consumer demographic: The "Never Greens"— people who either don't care or are not interested in America's new passion for sustainable, green products.

It's a demo that's been overlooked by marketers as they rush to tout their carbon offsets, recycled content and eco-friendly manufacturing.

About 10% of the population are Never Greens, according to a survey by Mintel International in Chicago, a research firm.

The Never Greens don't buy green products, don't remember green advertising when they see it and are irritated by it even if they do, according to Mintel.

Never Greens also showed up in a survey by Shelton Group, an ad agency for BP Solar, the oil giant's renewable unit. About 26% of Americans are hardcore skeptics, according to Suzanne Shelton, the CEO of the Knoxville, Tenn., firm. They tend to be upper-income, middle-aged, conservative males, she said.

Coverley, a retired investment banker, fits the profile almost perfectly. He lives in the middle of the country, is highly educated, has lots of disposal income, and is a man who is not shy with his opinions about the economy and the price of oil.

"I don't care about the environmental reasons and I'll tell you why," Coverley said. "All this stuff about carbon emissions, no one really knows about the output of the sun and yet it's the single most important input behind global warming . . . Are the Chinese going to be environmentalists? Are the Indians going to be environmentalists? Are the Russians? I don't think so."

Although Never Greens are outliers—most Americans are raising their expectations of companies' green efforts—marketers would do well to pay attention to these naysayers. Why? Because several companies have stumbled as consumers have rejected green products even while ostensibly clamoring for more.

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