Are you wearing the ‘new green’ ?

Guest blogger Anne Charbonneau, Managing Partner Benelux and Head of BSR

The rise of collaborative consumption

The other day, I saw this great poster in Paris tube station. This is sport retailer Decathlon inviting you to a "peer-to peer" trading: you bring your old gear to re-sell, so you buy new stuff.

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Screen shot 2011-11-08 at 10.04.59 AMOther brands like Levi's and Nike are also running similar "Trade in for cash" offers. But what's clever about Decathlon's approach is giving you a personal justification, with the great idea: ‘You’re progressing faster that your gear. Sell if for some new gear!’ So now you can trade up for more expensive sport gadgets without guilt! Wonderful ;-)

This campaign is part of the broader trend of ‘collaborative consumption’, with the emergence of a whole new breed of businesses such as car-sharing, book swapping and recycling. Most of them are online-enabled, and work on direct, peer-to-peer exchanges.

Green business is dead. Long live green business

Green bloggers are even talking about Green Marketing, in its conventional form, being over. This is based on the simple fact that in spite of the hype and pressure on corporation, green products account for less that 2% of business in most product categories. Consumer habits have not really changed that much, as Joel Makower explains here.

Does this mean marketer should give up on attempts to "clean up" your products? Of course not. You’ll keep doing it for other reasons, like cost cutting, staff pride, corporate reputation etc. But we need to get real about how effective this will be at helping us SMS (sell more stuff).

The ‘new green’ however, goes deeper, and is more about how you consume (including consuming less) than what you consume. And it’s here to last:

  • 1. Anthropologists tells us we are hard-wired to be social creatures, looking to share and ‘have what others are having’.
  • 2. We have got used to sharing in our life, with music and video file sharing
  • 3. The recession will only reinforce this new trading model and those new behaviours.
  • 4. It's just cool, whether you call it ‘Eco-chic’ or ‘Dealer-chic’.

What does this mean for me?

So what does this ‘new green’ of collaborative consumption do to me? I’m not a retailer and I don’t run a cool car-sharing site either, I’m selling babyfood, I hear you say!

Well, this could be a stretch, but in fact we think there are creative ways for ANY brand to leverage the ‘new green’ in its own way. After all, the end game is still ‘better product and services’. We just need to keep in mind a broader and consumer-centric definition of what "better" is’. This can including product lifecycle, re-use, recycling and, most of all, sharing possibilities.

So, start working on the new green and deliver the ‘better’ consumers are asking for on your product or service:

  • How it could be used more? differently? or by others?  
  • Could you increase its life?
  • Could my product be shared, re-used?
  • How can I help consumers get maximum value out if it?
  • Could the packaging be re-used, or used differently, to enhance consumer experience and deliver the new ‘betterness’ they are looking for?

These are the questions you need to find answers to if you want to grab a share of the ‘new green’ business.