This is one in a series of articles from the Baublitz Briefs, quick-study guides to LBM marketing and communications. Click here to see a list of other articles.
Why is the building materials industry moving so rapidly to embrace all things green?
Protecting ecosystems and conserving natural resources are good for the planet. Green products can also improve the quality of the indoor environment and trim energy costs. But there's a more basic driver of the industry's abrupt turn to green: the potential for profit.
In fact, the market for environmentally friendly building materials is expected to continue to grow from just under $2.2 billion in 2006 to $4.7 billion in 2011--an annual growth rate of 17%, according to a 2007 report from SBI, a research firm. Today, nearly 40% of homeowners are remodeling with green products, according to a 2007 study by McGraw-Hill Construction.
"Green" is clearly more than just a fad. The problem? Manufacturers, dealers and others in the building materials industry grapple with significant obstacles to green marketing. Without a strong marketing platform, they risk missing out on their share of the green market--and their share of the profits.
Pitfalls Along the Green Path
The findings indicate that the green market will generate significant revenue in the near future. Unfortunately, there are numerous barriers to success:
- Defining what it means to be green. To build a green marketing program, a company must understand the green attributes of a product or service. Unfortunately, that process may be complex. What variables constitute green-ness? How are they measured? In addition, a wide variety of green claims--"recycled content," "eco-friendly," and others--has created confusion in the marketplace. Without a clearly expressed green message, any company may be simply contributing to the chaos.
- Standards and certifications. There are numerous certifications for air quality, water usage, energy efficiency and other attributes. What do they mean? And how will they affect the customer's buying decision? Third-party certification can be a key to success; unfortunately, the answers to these questions differ on a case-by-case basis.
- Competition for "green turf." Some companies have hurried a product or service to market, gaining crucial benefits of early entry: name recognition, market share in a category, and longer-term entrenchment. How, then, do later-arriving (but deserving) products compete with those that have staked out the green turf?
- Greenwashing. "Greenwashing" is the use of vague, misleading or false environmental claims. By employing greenwashing, companies seek short-term gain, but damage the market over the long haul. Greenwashing undermines the advantage that should be enjoyed by products or services that can make legitimate green claims.
Building a Green Platform
Clearly, green marketing presents a challenge. But, as with any other significant marketing challenge, a clearly structured plan and execution strategy bring success within reach. Baublitz Advertising's response was to develop PlanIt Earth??: Environmental Marketing Plan, a program designed to enable companies in the building industry to capitalize on the green opportunity. Whatever process you use, it should incorporate these elements:
1. Get to green: The Environmental Impact Assessment
What makes a product "green?" What are the variables that should be explored in defining "greenness?" A company can't begin to tell its green story until it answers these questions in a structured manner.
The Environmental Impact Assessment is a proprietary process that engages in a thorough review of key materials and processes. Any company building a green marketing program must engage in a similar exercise to understand materials and resources, third-party certifications, life-cycle issues, manufacturing processes, and more. This exercise also establishes fundamentals that will enable any company to differentiate itself from a competing product or service.
2. Craft a program for success: The Environmental Marketing Plan
Armed with an in-depth understanding, a company can craft a detailed plan to leverage its green strengths. Key elements of any plan should include:
- Competitive market research that defines the marketing landscape and enables a company to properly position a product or service.
- A green creative platform that articulates key points of differentiation and hones the messages that define green benefits.
- Third-party certifications, both exploring and articulating the value of Energy Star, GreenSeal and other certifications.
- Tactical approach, which identifies the various actionable elements of the plan. These may include collateral, media planning and placement, public relations, Web development or updates, case studies, trade show participation, and more.
- The LEED Guide. If applicable, a company should develop a guide that explains how their product can potentially contribute to LEED points (LEED is the green program run by the U.S. Green Building Council) or meets NAHB guidelines. This tool shows customers how a particular product can meet green goals and, therefore, generate sales.
3. Go to market: Plan execution and measurement
Poor execution can weaken the strongest plan. Proper execution requires timing all marketing tactics so that they support and enhance one another. In addition, care must be taken to identify and address all key audiences along the sales channel. Third, the budget must be allocated appropriately so that the highest priorities receive adequate funding.
Finally, the plan must include specific, measurable objectives. These benchmarks should be monitored regularly so that a company can change course or reallocate resources to optimize the program's performance.
Green: The Time Is Now
The green opportunity is very real for the building industry, and all evidence indicates that the revenue potential will increase significantly during the coming years. Those who procrastinate risk squandering a potential for profit. Conversely, those who choose to explore the green opportunity have much to gain.
(This briefing is part of a larger white paper entitled "Seeing Green: The Environmental Marketing Opportunity." To receive a copy, visit www.baublitz.com.)
Case Study: ESP
Getting to Green
ESP has been marketing LOW-E, a line of patented reflective insulation products that conserve energy, for years--long before "being green" was fashionable. LOW-E is also versatile enough for a wide range of applications, including residential, commercial, and automotive. LOW-E offers significant green benefits: as a house wrap, for example, it blocks up to 97% of a home's radiant heat loss. Plus, LOW-E contains recycled materials and resists moisture damage--key attributes for sustainability.
The problem? ESP believed its green message "wasn't getting through to dealers, builders and other customers," according to Dustin Muller, ESP's marketing manager. "We needed a bolder approach."
The company worked with Baublitz Advertising to develop a new brand, logo, collateral materials and a completely revamped Web site, www.low-e.com. The reintroduction highlighted LOW-E's pivotal role in improving a building's overall energy efficiency and reducing energy costs.
"When we launched our redesigned campaign at the 2008 International Builders Show, we found it really resonated with our audience," Muller said. "The visuals and messaging clearly convey both our green attributes and the benefits of LOW-E for the user."