“Going Green”-Do Customers Really Care?

Do customers really care about about vendors that go green?  Up until today, I’ve never seen anything beyond hype–vendors touting how green they really are in hopes of one-upping their competitors. Everyone has been jumping on a bandwagon, hoping to out-green their competitors. However, I’ve not seen any form of customer research that proves that a.) customers care about green vendors, or more importantly, b.) that they will be willing to pay more for so-called green products.  Without the latter, going green may be the right thing to do, but it is merely a cost that many companies cannot afford to incur in these difficult times.

Until today. I read an article in Advertising Age that described results of a Hearst magazine reader survey that found that 43% of their readers would stop buying products that were not eco-friendly, and 43% said they would pay more for a magazine printed on recycled paper.  This is a surprisingly significant percentage.  I applaud companies that are going directly to customers to find out how green they want them to be rather than simply jumping on the bandwagon.

Now, the question is what they do with this.  If they raised prices, will the 57% defect?  By raising prices, will they offset the potential cost of defections?  Should they develop a premium-priced product that appeals more to the greenies and run the risk of cannibalizing current sales?  Or should they hold the course until a larger percentage of people are converted to greenies?

What do you think they should do?  I’d love to hear your comments.

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