Who buys green? New data and insights on cause-related marketing

Earth Day is coming up, and with it a slew of brands coming through with cause-related marketing, hoping to appeal to green product buyers. And cause marketing has a real impact on a brand’s bottom line:

But consumers are getting more particular and savvy about the brands they choose to buy from—they won't stand for anything that feels inauthentic or "greenwashed." Understanding this audience is more important than ever, but how do you actually quantify the “green market”?  

Using Epsilon’s media planning and clean room platform, which aggregates Epsilon’s CORE ID data at scale for granular consumer insight for media planning purposes (without any consumer-level information), we took a peek at natural market shoppers (in partnership with Publicis Commerce) to better understand their larger demographics and identify prevalent attributes to help cause marketers better connect with this group.  

A look at the “green” market across the US: 

Green buyers across the US - Epsilon

In our data, we use a propensity model to score shoppers based on who has/hasn’t purchased “green” products; this group of “green shoppers” is the top 10% of all CORE IDs that are likely to buy green, essentially the people who buy green the most.  

When looking at buyers’ potential to be green shoppers across the US, we see very few states that actually over-index for this group. The usual suspects show up, like California, Oregon, Washington and New York, but we also see states like Arizona, Nevada and Florida as areas with more than average green-product buyers.  

When analyzing this audience segment, we see a few key themes emerging:

  • They are 48% more likely to be women, 27% more likely to be single, and 35% more likely to be within the 25-34 age bracket.
  • They are 155% more likely to use public transit, and 17% more likely to have some college education.
  • They are 67% more likely to be gig economy employees and 44% and 54% more likely to be Hispanic or African American, respectively.  
  • Other correlative lifestyle attributes: Highly likely to be public transportation users, experimental cooks, Postmates enthusiasts, Latin music enthusiasts, auto warranty purchasers, organic food purchasers, socially active on Facebook or Senior caregivers.

But there are many and different ways that someone could be a “green” buyer, so it’s also important to look into specific product categories that have clear options for consumers to select a “natural” product, and from there, further investigate who is more likely to buy a regular natural product versus a more premium option.   

Regular vs. premium natural product buyers 

If we dig a little bit deeper, we can look into how people buy across regular natural products versus “premium” natural products (think of the difference between buying Mrs. Meyers versus its premium sister brand, Caldrea). Those classified as premium buyers are defined as people who are “willing to pay a premium price for a natural product.” 

Here’s a look at how regular natural home cleaner buyers compare to premium home cleaner buyers: 

Premium natural home cleaners 

Premium natural home cleaner buyers across the US - Epsilon

Regular natural home cleaners  

Regular natural home cleaner buyers across the US - Epsilon

As you can see from the maps overlaid with the natural home cleaner data, some states are great markets for both premium and regular natural home cleaning products while others are better for just one or the other: 

  • Over-index for regular and premium natural home cleaning: Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, Massachusetts, Nevada, New York, Washington and Wyoming 
  • Over-index for premium natural home cleaning: Alaska, California, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico and Texas
  • Over-index for regular natural home cleaning: Connecticut, Delaware, Iowa, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Virginia  

The same is true when we look at regular natural personal care versus premium natural personal care: 

Premium natural personal care 

Premium natural personal care buyers across the US - Epsilon

It’s worth noting that premium personal care buyers are also highly likely to be premium natural home cleaner and premium natural laundry product buyers (top 10% for each). Other high percentile traits for this group are that they’re avid book readers, Target enthusiasts, restaurant loyalty card customers, home gym owners and live concert attendees.  

Regular natural personal care  

Natural personal care buyers across the US - EpsilonAgain, we see some states that over-index for both categories. but others that over-index for one or the other: 

  • Over-index for regular and premium natural personal care: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Idaho, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Washington, Washington DC
  • Over-index for premium natural personal care: Delaware, Illinois, Kansas, Maryland, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Wyoming
  • Over-index for regular natural personal care: Florida, Hawaii, Maine, Rhode Island, Vermont  

Both groups over-index as female, which isn’t surprising, but there are a few other demographic differences worth highlighting: 

Building cause marketing into your strategy 

This information helps to connect the dots across who is actually buying natural, green products today and what they care about. But just about any brand today can’t ignore how cause-related marketing impacts their brand and community.  

  • People are paying attention to corporate CSR efforts: Consumers are paying more attention to brands’ corporate social responsibility (CSR) effort, but 76% of consumers agree that there is a difference between social awareness and social activism. Simply being aware of an issue and talking about it is not enough to convince the customer that your brand is supportive of a cause.  
  • And they’re not easily sold: 68% of consumers believe that most brands only get involved in social causes to win over consumers, making the importance of authenticity and honesty paramount in any CSR initiatives.  
  • Younger generations expect brands to participate in causes they care about: 71% of GenZ shoppers (ages 18-24) expect their favorite brands to participate and support in awareness holidays, like Earth Day, Black History Month, World Autism Day, etc. What’s more, 44% of this group also believes that “cancel culture” is an effective way to hold brands accountable.  

Participating in awareness holidays, like Earth Day, does have an impact. Old Navy is a great cause marketing example: For World Water Day in March and then Earth Day in April last year, the clothing brand launched a multi-pronged initiative to showcase their green future and commitment to young changemakers. As part of their #ImagineABetterFuture campaign, they showcased how they’re investing in the next generation and their commitment to climate change.  

First, they pledged to have 85% of the fibers used in their clothing to come from sustainable sources by 2025, a fairly aggressive and nearer-term goal for such a large brand. Then they named Ryan Hickman, an 11-year-old, as the brand’s new head of “fun-cycling” and invested in Hickman’s nonprofit organization dedicated to recycling awareness. They also selected 51 (in honor of the 51st Earth Day) environmentally focused GoFundMe fundraisers, which were all led by youth activists. And to top it off, they eliminated all plastic shopping bags at its stores in the U.S. and Canada.  

Keeping cause-related marketing authentic 

We know that consumers can see through inauthentic, greenwashing initiatives, so how do you ensure your brand doesn’t fall into that category?  

  • Provide tangible proof through ongoing actions: Show your commitment over time, not just a one-and-done stunt. Old Navy’s cause-related marketing example is a good model to follow; they have a landing page that discusses the many prongs of their CSR initiatives and track progress toward those goals over time. Showing true commitment to the cause builds long-term loyalty and confidence with your customers that you’re not just pulling a PR stunt.  
  • Support your local economy: Yes, supporting national and international causes is very important, but there are often local initiatives where your brand can be physically involved and make a real impact. Wherever your brand is located, there are likely nonprofit organizations you can get involved in that align to your brand values, and if you somehow can’t find any, maybe it’s a good opportunity to start your own.  
  • Empower and educate: Don’t just educate on what your brand is doing, educate on the topics your brand cares about. It shows a deeper understanding of the issue and gives your loyal customers—as well as new ones—a reason to believe in the initiative. This also helps with engendering loyalty with those in your audience that don’t yet care about some of these initiatives. And as we saw in the data above, not everyone is yet a “green” shopper—if sustainability and climate change are key CSR initiatives for your brand, you can play a role in educating your audience and the larger public on that topic and how it applies to your products and investments.  

Cause-related marketing is important for all brands, whether they’re simply looking to connect with a cause-specific buying group or building their holistic cause-related marketing strategy. 

Interested in learning more about how Epsilon can with your loyalty strategy and consumer insights? Check out our loyalty marketing solutions and data platforms