Making a health or eco claim in marketing got much more dangerous in 2012. The trend is likely to continue this year.
That’s because the number of false advertising lawsuits against CPG companies is rising rapidly. Last year, there were a host of “deceptive action” claims filed by regulators, advocacy groups, and consumers. They are calling out brands for everything from unsubstantiated health claims, to misleading packaging graphics, to misusing the word “natural.”
Why are there more lawsuits? First, a number of popular terms, like “all natural,” are very poorly defined. Reasonable people---and companies—can disagree about what qualifies. Second, consumers are increasingly knowledgeable and better able to assess brand claims. Third, social media users and bloggers are spreading the word when they see marketing they consider misleading. Finally, advocacy groups have gotten involved and organized consumers.
A number of high profile companies lost product claims lawsuits last year, including POM Wonderful, Diamond Foods, and Splenda. General Mills and others are still in the midst of legal action.
The risk-reward calculation for making a product claim has changed. What is the best way to determine when the upside is greater than the downside?
BBMG, GlobeScan, and SustainAbility recently released a compelling green consumer segmentation. It caught my eye because it does a better job than most capturing how Americans think and act.
The research identified four distinct groups based on varying attitudes and actions.
Practicals (36% of the US population.) They are motivated to buy products with proven performance. Social and environmental benefits are “nice to haves,” not critical. Practicals are only interested in green products that match their current brands on all attributes and measurably reward them for being sustainable.
Aspirationals (32% of the US.) This group is motivated by style, status, and shopping. They would like to be sustainable, but struggle to match their attitudes with actions. When companies make a compelling case that being sustainable is on trend, and a critical mass of their friends convert, Aspirationals probably will too.
Indifferents (22% of the US.) The majority of Indifferents do not feel any sense of responsibility to help society and do not worry about their impact on the planet. They are skeptical of all green claims, and resist buying sustainable products even when they have obvious benefits. There is little chance this group will change.
Advocates (11% of the US.) The core of the sustainability movement, Advocates are motivated by responsibility and guilt. These are the influencers who live their values, evangelize a green lifestyle, and sway others to join them.
How can we design our marketing and new products to appeal to Advocates, reward Practicals, and deliver the style and status Aspirationals seek?
39% of Americans feel guilty about wasting food, making it the #1 source of green guilt by a wide margin. Other activities that lead many to feel remorse include leaving the lights on when they are not in the room (27%) and wasting water (27%.) Surprisingly, not buying CFLs elicits little regret (only 9%) as does not managing the house temperature to save energy (7%.)
Why do consumers feel so guilty about throwing out food? It likely has to do with socialization (“Clean your plate, there are kids starving in Africa!”) Additionally, it is highly visible and occurs frequently, making it hard to ignore.
Americans’ food usage has lots of room for improvement. 40% of the food produced in the US is not eaten. The average family of four throws out between $1,300 and $2,700 of groceries annually. If just 15% of that food could be saved, it would make a dramatic difference in the country’s hunger issues.
Food gets tossed by shoppers for a variety of reasons including confusion about dates on labels, poor planning, and buying in bulk due to retail incentives.
At the consumer level, 33% of seafood, 28% of produce, and 27% of grain products are wasted.
Should we consider new products that help consumers waste less food?
Will this be the year when global warming returns to America’s radar screen? There are some compelling reasons to think the answer is “Yes!”
There are also reasons to think that climate change will continue to be ignored for at least another year.
What do you think? Will the nation embrace and address climate change this year?