Green Industry Articles

Make Green Benefits Tangible

Jacquie Ottman has spent 20 years developing, consulting on and executing green marketing strategies for multinational brands. Among those household names are GE, HSBC, Starbucks, Nike, and Toyota.

From those experiences, she's developed some new marketing rules and talks about them in her book, The New Rules of Green Marketing.
Ottman's good news for Green Designees: "Green consumers are now mainstream, and 83 percent identify themselves as some shade of green," she says.

She chatted with the GRC about some ways that her research and knowledge translate to the real estate industry.

One message to real estate practitioners: Make green benefits tangible and relevant to your clients.

Here's some of Ottman's insight:

Read your client: Sure, you could rely on the copious demographic and segmentation data that are available. But Ottman points out that you're in an ideal position to sniff out each prospect's interests and quirks and deliver houses and information based on those very specific needs.

"Before, people wanted access to schools, recreation and transportation. Now you have new items on buyers' lists," she comments. Figure out what those things are by doing something of a DIY, on-the-spot market segmentation.

For instance, develop your own checklist and questions to glean whether a person is mainly interested in the health benefits of green home features or whether they're most interested in saving money, for example.

Then you're armed with information and can show the data to market properties and communities that appeal directly to their needs and wants.

If a client checks off that family members suffer from asthma and allergies, you'll know instantly to narrow your properties to those with systems that address indoor air quality.

If slashing monthly energy costs tops the list, you can arm yourself with properties' energy bills and charts and graphs to illustrate how a property's tankless water heater and efficient appliances contribute to lower energy bills.

And don't limit your questions to the immediate property. Many may be interested in community gardens and local soil conditions and the city's broader sustainability strategies, such as waste disposal, recycling and water management.

Make it tangible: Ottman suggests taking a cue from the new car labels that offer buyers information on a fuel economy and costs, energy use and a car's effect on the environment. "In the redesign, they've taken indirect consumer benefits and have made those environmental benefits tangible," she observes.

Take the concept of smog and greenhouse gases. She asks, "They're not going to kill me tomorrow, right? What does that mean to my health? Will the planet absorb it? I really don't know what it means to me. But I can save $5,000? You know what it means, what you can buy with it and how long it took you to earn it." That's transforming something fuzzy into something consumers can grasp quickly.

Personalize listings' labels: Consider developing your own label for your green listings and, suggests Ottman, "Make these benefits tangible."

"If an agent takes you through a house and says there's new insulation and an efficient water heater, it doesn't become tangible until he or she shows you a bill."

Consider plugging the numbers into a chart or graph and show how a given listing compares to others in the neighborhood. "That would help establish the value of a home and distinguish it from other homes. The more scientific it is and the more there is third-party proof, the more the information will be believed," Ottman notes.

Re-image with fresh graphics: Green marketers routinely rely on images of babies, flowers, and the planet. Big mistake, says Ottman. "They're very soft, they're not direct," she says.

In her book she writes, "Today’s consumers buy greener brands to help protect their health, save money, or because they simply work better.

That’s why products such as organics, natural personal care and pet care, and energy efficient products are leading the way in sales."

To make green features tangible, consider images that scream about saving money. Alternate icons include dollar signs, houses in the form of a bank, and photos of electric bills. "You need to bring those environmental benefits to life for buyers who have their wallets out."

For more about Ottman and her book, visit her site at

Source: Green REsource Council Newsletter, August 2011