April 2011: Does your low-carbon product need a different positioning in different markets?

By , April 5, 2011 9:39 pm

April 2011, Market Intelligence Article for Sustainable Business Magazine, reproduced with permission.

Peter Winters, President, Haddock Research & Branding

Double-click on the offprint below to see it in a larger size.

Within the Environmental Choices study, we tested 6 different themes which are currently used in the marketing of ‘environmentally-friendly’ products. Whilst there are some significant demographic differences in the appeal of these different ideas, it is not closely related to people’s country of residence.  The preference profiles of Canadians, English people and Americans are pretty similar when it comes to which environmental branding ideas they find powerful, and which they do not.

These findings should give encouragement for companies developing low-carbon products that they will be able to develop a common positioning platform across international markets. Yet beware using the idea of ‘beautiful nature’ – in each of these 3 countries it tends to be a powerful idea only amongst those already very concerned about climate change.


For many British companies developing low-carbon products, commercial viability will only be achieved by being successful at a global scale. For these companies, a typical development route is to use the UK as a first-stage test market, and then roll-out into other promising countries. Yet, what guarantees are there that a positioning strategy developed for the UK market, by understanding British consumers, is going to be best suited to other countries? Could the company have been more strategic in testing-out international opinion, before the product was launched in the UK, to anticipate how well the product positioning would scale up to other markets? Companies also need to recognise that their UK marketing communications will go beyond the domestic market. Consumer Facebook recommendations will have a global reach.

In my December 2010 article, I wrote about how modern communications are making national boundaries less relevant to business and social affairs. Within it, I mentioned how we tested the power of 6 different environmental branding ideas, and how variation in appeal had little to do with nationality. Let me now describe these results in more detail, with an eye to how this kind of approach can help in the strategic marketing of low-carbon products.

As part of the Environmental Choices study, our objective was to test out the appeal of broad environmental themes currently used to market ‘green’ products, amongst nationally representative samples of Canadians, English and Americans. Based on a review of green advertising, we came up with these 6 ideas:

A.   Beautiful nature – doing “good for the environment” means helping to save things threatened by climate change. Please imagine ice caps, coral reefs, wildlife, mountain shots, waterfalls, beaches, birds and earth from space

B.   Positive human relationships – doing “good for the environment” means being part of the community and caring for future generations. Please imagine young idealistic people, mothers and children, fathers and sons, caring relationships, and children playing in clean water.

C.   Empowering technical low-carbon solutions – doing “good for the environment” means using technology and gadgets which do not hurt the environment. Please imagine wind turbines, solar power, running water, hydrogen fuel cells and walking/cycling

D.   Guilt-free luxury – doing “good for the environment” means doing things “the right way”. It is about paying extra (maybe a lot extra), and enjoying pleasure with a low-carbon footprint. As more low-carbon technologies become available, this should become more possible.

E.   Zen-like simplicity – doing “good for the environment” means having less “stuff”, and using great design. Imagine the simplicity and design of an iPOD. There is balance / harmony between man and nature.

F.   Anti-consumerism – doing “good for the environment” means doing less shopping and being less materialistic. It could be imagined with the simplicity of the “old days” and traditional values.

We used a labelled 5-point scale to measure how powerful they thought each of these ideas to be. Most people (95%) are engaged with at least one of these ideas (with a score of at least 3). We reworked the data to understand which concepts are scored best (or equal best) for each respondent. In this way, we can undertake robust comparisons between sub-groups; especially important for comparisons between countries where different cultural norms can apply. We excluded from this analysis those 5% of people not engaged with any idea.

Overall, the results showed that the 3 ideas which have the highest appeal are C. Empowering technical low-carbon solutions, B. Positive human relationships and A. Beautiful Nature. The 3 other ideas have much lower levels of appeal.

With the international data set, we then used the SPSS CHAID test to understand for which types of people each of these ideas most appealed. This model will always choose the predictor variable with the strongest interaction with the dependent variable; in this case defined as the ‘idea rated best/equal best’. It only identifies statistically significant differences.

The results imply that a common environmental positioning platform could be applied across the 3 markets. The highest rated ‘low-carbon technology’ idea particularly appeals to men, especially middle-aged/older men without children; the next highest rated ‘human relationships’ idea appeals more to women, especially younger women with children; and the ‘beautiful nature’ idea particularly appeals to Climate Citizens.

One Response to “April 2011: Does your low-carbon product need a different positioning in different markets?”

  1. […] (demographics, attitudes, brand-usage) collected on each respondent. Within Environmental Choices, we tested the power of 6 different environmental branding ideas, and the variation in appeal had little to do with nationality. Rather, there were substantial […]

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