MARTIN MOLL, Head of Marketing Honda UK explains how he markets eco-markets and how this can apply to any number of other manufacturing industries and when it comes to selling green products, the car industry is ahead of most.
Convincing customers that your products are truly environmentally friendly is challenging in itself. However, for many brands, promoting your environmental credibility throws up another dilemma: in the mind of the consumer, if your products use less energy, that must mean that the manufacturer has had to compromise in other areas, right?
This problem is particularly prevalent in the car market. Eco cars, particularly hybrids, have a reputation for being sluggish. Honda has a hard-earned racing heritage, and in promoting our cars as being environmentally friendly, we ran the risk of tarnishing that brand image.
To combat this, Honda created a new class of vehicle - the sports hybrid. In a nutshell, it's a vehicle that makes use of a hybrid engine but without the low performance that many associate with hybrids. The success of the CR-Z, our sports hybrid, doesn't necessarily lie in the number of cars it sold. Importantly, the CR-Z was a way of changing perceptions of hybrids in general, proving that hybrids can be fun. We went after the most hardened petrolheads, and managed to win over Jeremy Clarkson, who gave it a four star review ("so cool, no-one will know it runs on lentils"). We went to great pains to demonstrate that improved efficiency didn't come from a puny engine - it came from a better gear box, an engine that knows to switch itself off when it's not needed and an aerodynamic bodyshape. As a result, Honda went some way towards changing the perception that more efficient equals slower.
How does this apply to other markets? The theory is simple: put your money where your mouth is, and prove to your customers and influencers that your products can be efficient without compromise. Ideally, you'll have a product that demonstrates that, but if you don't have a "halo" product (one that shines a light on the rest of your range) then make sure that your existing ones carry the right messages and be prepared to explain how you've made it more efficient. Be transparent - if energy savings haven't come from decreased performance, where have they come from? Don't be afraid to shout about the technical innovations that have helped you improve efficiency - otherwise, consumers will assume that you've had to make sacrifices.
We still face big challenges and were still some way to having zero-emission cars on the road (we see hybrids as a step towards this), but with vehicles such as the production ready FCX Clarity (Honda's hydrogen powered car), were on the way to achieving this and proving that vehicles do not need to compromise in order to be efficient.