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Research by WPP companies reveals UK consumers ripe for green business

1 May, 2007

Concern for the environment has prompted one of the most complete and speedy revolutions in consumer attitudes ever seen, with universal support in the UK for green thinking, according to new research. The results of the 2007 ImagePower. Green Brands Survey, conducted by WPP’s branding consultancy Landor Associates, research agency Penn, Schoen & Berland Associates (PSB) and PR firm Cohn & Wolfe (C&W), were released today in the United Kingdom and United States. The survey was conducted by PSB’s Internet Surveys Groups (ISG) and represents a sample of the British and American populations for their respective perceptions of green and its effect on branding and marketing.

The UK survey of 1,525 British adults found that although support for many green ideas is now mainstream, understanding of what it means to be green is shallow, confused and easily swayed by company messages.

The Body Shop is the UK green brand of the year, according to the survey. It is viewed as far and away the most green company against brands in the eight tested categories. Next in line came car company Smart which manufactures small chic urban run-arounds. Others in the top twenty UK green brands include three supermarkets, two petrol companies and an airline.

“There is no doubt that the universal adoption of basic green ideas has been possibly the swiftest shift in consumer attitudes we have witnessed in recent times. It has certainly been faster than the internet revolution and faster than the take-up of mobile phones,” said Phil Gandy, Planning Director of Landor Associates.

“It is now almost the unquestioned norm that we all embrace some shade of green philosophy and behaviour. Yet just a year ago, the green agenda was out on the lunatic fringe for most people,” he added.

The research also paints a picture of British consumers as deeply concerned and pessimistic about the state of the environment but not quite sure what to do about it.

Climate change is seen as the most important environmental issue we face by two thirds of those questioned and more than seventy per cent of those asked rate society’s performance in addressing the issue as neutral or worse. Other environmental concerns include population growth, technology and international trade.

Government is widely perceived to be ineffective in driving a green agenda. And in a clear warning to businesses that choose to ignore the environment, eighty per cent of those questioned believe that it is important that companies are environmentally friendly.

However when it comes to defining what exactly being ‘green’ means in terms of their own behaviour, consumers have a rosy but confused view. The primary focus is on reducing their waste rather than reducing consumption. So over half of respondents reported driving cars that are fuel efficient, and most wash their cars by hand and without a hosepipe these days.

The next most common green behaviour is recycling plastic bags followed by use of products that do not deplete the ozone layer. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions comes third, while ‘supporting organisations that protect the rain forest’ comes fourth.

“It is clear that being green means different things to different people,” says Gandy. “There is a general awareness of an urgent problem and there is widespread belief that we are all part of that problem. But consumers have not yet come to the view that they need to address their consumption. It seems that most of us are still thinking in terms of reducing waste – throwing away less, rather than consuming less.”

The research found that we may be very interested in greenness but when it comes to companies and brands, many can’t identify what that means. Twenty-three per cent of the population could not identify any steps a company should take to make itself green.

Nonetheless companies that promote themselves as green or present themselves as ethically concerned can reap substantial rewards. Green brands are perceived as having higher quality and consumers say they are prepared to pay a ‘green premium’ for them. Six in ten for instance will spend more on energy saving household appliances.

“The onus is squarely on brands to take a lead in setting the green agenda,” adds Gandy. “The almost universal take-up of recycling in the UK shows how people will get involved, if actions they can take to make a difference are made clear and simple to understand.”

But the study also reveals that many of the brands widely perceived by the public as green simply include the colour green in their logo or use more natural packaging for their products. Overall winner The Body Shop has long used both the colour green and ‘alternative’ packaging.

Said Gandy, “Just how consumers judge the greenness of brands is a complex mixture of perception and reality. Being seen to be ethically concerned is important but just being ‘modern and likeable’ – like Virgin or Google – can be enough to bestow a powerful green halo effect.

“What is certainly clear is that consumers want to do the right thing but need genuine help to carry through into action. Brands which align themselves with environmental concerns at this relatively early stage of the debate can expect to secure a competitive advantage given that environmental concern can only grow in future.”

Penn, Schoen and Berland Associates conducted 1,525 Internet interviews among the UK general population between 6-8 April 2007 and 1,504 interviews among the US general population. Respondents were screened to meet the following criteria: age 18 or over, gender, age and region was weighted based on UK and US census information, respondents rated only the brands with which they were familiar.

Industry ranking by greenness:
1. Body care
2. Grocery
3. Appliances
4. Automotive
5. Energy/Petroleum
6. Banking
7. Online Technology
8. Travel

Top 20 UK Green Brands:
1. The Body Shop
2. Smart
3. Waitrose
4. The Co-operative Bank
5. Tesco
6. Marks & Spencer
7. Dyson
8. Sainsury’s
9. BP
10. Aveda
11. Asda
12. Toyota
13. Virgin Atlantic
14. Nivea
15. Shell
16. Indesit
17. Npower
18. Bosch
19. Google
20. Eurostar

About Landor Associates –

Landor Associates is one of the world’s leading strategic brand and design consultancies. Founded by Walter Landor in 1941, Landor pioneered many of the research, design and consulting methods that are now standard in the branding industry. Partnering with clients, Landor drives business transformation and performance by creating brands that are more innovative, progressive and dynamic than their competitors.

Landor’s holistic approach to branding is a balance of rigorous, business-driven thinking and exceptional creativity. Its work spans the full breadth of branding services, including brand research and valuation, brand positioning and architecture, naming and writing, corporate identity and consumer packaging design, branded experience, brand equity management, brand engagement and digital branding.

With 22 offices in 17 countries, Landor’s current and past clients in the UK include Ariel, BP, Citi, E45, Ernst & Young, Gulf Air, Heinz, Lenor, Morrisons, Nokia, PJ Smoothies, Quaker, Smirnoff, Traidcraft, Tropicana and Walkers.

About Penn, Schoen & Berland Associates –

Penn, Schoen & Berland Associates (PSB) is a research based strategic consultancy that helps corporate and political leaders develop winning communications campaigns. PSB has a track record of success over 30 years, using a unique approach to strategic messaging and research that helps clients understand and better connect with their customers.

PSB executes polling and messaging testing services in over 70 countries, for political leaders like Bill Clinton and Tony Blair as well as for major companies and businesses, to develop brand positioning and guide successful advertising and communications campaigns.

About Cohn & Wolfe –

Cohn & Wolfe is a strategic marketing public relations agency dedicated to creating, building and protecting the world's most prolific brands. With offices in the USA and Europe, the agency creates and implements powerful communications programmes that help clients build their brands and their bottom lines.

The core areas of expertise include consumer, healthcare, technology and corporate communications. Cohn & Wolfe ranks number one by clients for creativity, media placement, client service, senior management and strategic counsel. Cohn & Wolfe also consistently ranks among the top "Best Agencies to Work For" in an annual, industry wide employee survey.

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