Green Consumers? Forget About 'Em

Last Updated Jan 25, 2008 12:14 PM EST

Stephen Bishop, a global lead of Design for Sustainability at design consultant IDEO, has written a thoughtful and thought-provoking column on marketing green products to green consumers.

In essence, he says, forget about it.

What? Not market a new product to the most logical customer base? Um, not so much when it comes to eco-products, he says. "Marketing to the green consumer has proved difficult, even downright dangerous, for companies large and small."

Bishop argues that companies who have tried this wind up selling unsatisfactory products just because they are green, turning off established customers in the process. And, he adds, companies can become trapped in the "green ghetto", which shuts them off from the mainstream.

Using a case study of IDEO's work with bicycle component maker Shimano, Bishop says the key is to focus on green behaviors everyone can aspire to rather than on a market niche. Read his article to find out how.

Do you think green market has different rules than the ones you might have learned in Marketing 101? How would approach this market?

  • Sean Silverthorne

    Sean Silverthorne is the editor of HBS Working Knowledge, which provides a first look at the research and ideas of Harvard Business School faculty. Working Knowledge, which won a Webby award in 2007, currently records 4 million unique visitors a year. He has been with HBS since 2001.

    Silverthorne has 28 years experience in print and online journalism. Before arriving at HBS, he was a senior editor at CNET and executive editor of ZDNET News. While at At Ziff-Davis, Silverthorne also worked on the daily technology TV show The Site, and was a senior editor at PC Week Inside, which chronicled the business of the technology industry. He has held several reporting and editing roles on a variety of newspapers, and was Investor Business Daily's first journalist based in Silicon Valley.