Whenever there's a significant change in society's needs, brands must evolve their products or services to best meet them. That is nothing new, and we are now in the midst of such change—a perfect storm brought on by the economic downturn, emerging consumer interest in sustainability, and the power of social media.
But marketers seem to be having trouble figuring out how to meet the resulting societal needs. That's in part why The Social Studies Group and I partnered to study what we call the "Green Mom Eco-cosm."
Whether for reasons of cost savings or family health, women who are moms, write blogs, and self-identify as "green" have exactly the motivation and conviction marketers need to understand right now.
The influence those women wield in the emerging environmental side of brands and products is powerful. The well-being of their children and safety of their homes are crucial to how and why they buy.
Thanks to the blogosphere and the information available online in general, those women have become very educated about what may be harmful to their families and the environment in which they live.
Finally, once they gain that knowledge, they are driven to share what they learn with the large, likeminded communities they have built.
Savvy marketers have long known to narrow down their core market to its finest point. Examining green-mom bloggers does just that, by starting with women—the broad segment known to make or influence most consumer-goods purchases—and then homing in on women who are moms, then moms who blog, and finally down to those who choose the "green" label to describe themselves.
Research for our report, The Green Mom Eco-cosm: A Social Study into their Motivations, Convictions and Influence, found that this passionate group provided a revealing look at sustainability, or green-inspired consumer behavior.
The research reflects the need to appreciate that "green mothers" is an expansive term that encompasses women with widely varying degrees of consumption, commitment to green issues, eco-knowledge, and motivation to be green.
By listening to what those mothers were saying and reading about what they were doing, we arrived at three primary categories to capture and explain the majority of green moms:
1. Super Greens. The most radical in their views and furthest from the mainstream in their lifestyle choices as a result of their commitment to the environment, Super Greens are incorporating their eco-convictions more thoroughly into every aspect of their and their families' lives. Through a green lens they closely examine how they live, the choices they make, and the products they use.
2. Eco-Moderates. The Eco-Moderates reflect a more receptive, somewhat compromising attitude toward green products. They represent a broad group of mothers who are very concerned about the environment but also concerned with balancing the realities of juggling career, family, home, and their desire to live a more eco-aware life.
3. Mainstream Greens. More likely to align philosophically, if not always literally, with the concept of green consumerism, Mainstream Greens still shop at big-box stores but are on the lookout for greener versions of the products they already buy. They are focused on making "smarter choices" and often talk of making "baby steps" in a greener direction.
Two distinct profiles that deserve additional attention are tucked within the three primary categories:
Natural-Parenting/Simple-Living Enthusiasts. The women in this niche partially overlap within the Super Greens and Eco-Moderates. Hallmarks of Natural Parenting include natural childbirth, breastfeeding, cloth diapering, and co-sleeping, to name a few. Their philosophy strongly incorporates green values, as illustrated in their approach to food, which emphasizes homemade, organic meals and locavore tendencies.
Green and Frugals. With a noted disdain for buying into consumer trends and a mantra of "living within one's means," the Green and Frugals are not bargain shoppers, as such, but are focused strongly on saving money as well as on a given product's environmental impact. Green and Frugals are likely to be fastidious about repairing goods, if at all possible, before buying new ones.
Differences in motivations and ideologies aside, the one factor tying all those women together is a desire to lessen their negative impact on the environment, even if the steps they take vary.
To be sure, the women in the Green Mom Eco-cosm see both their own processes and those of the brands trying to serve their more-green ways as a journey. They respond to seeing company or brand steps in a more environmentally sound direction.
Peering through online windows into their homes and lives, as we did in this study, made it apparent that the size and influence of this particular population of green moms was growing.
The insights that can be gained from them are enormous and wide-ranging. It will be important for brands to remember that green moms are serving as thought leaders for larger populations and for industry watchdogs.
Today's consumer voice is speaking loudly. To serve the changing needs of a society increasingly concerned with environmental issues, companies must continue to both listen to the discussions in the Green Mom Eco-cosm and let those moms know that they are being heard.