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Unfounded Green Claims Make Consumers See Red

Green is the new gold standard when it comes to persuasive product marketing, a new tracking report suggests.  If your product has genuine green bona fides, it’s OK to highlight them in your consumer marketing, but you need make sure your message is not misunderstood, eMarketer reported.

Consumers like the green claim, but confusion over vague terms and a lack of standardization can lead to consumer backlash , according to the "Green Gap Trend Tracker" survey from Cone, a strategy and communications agency.

Green claims are a strong selling point, the report said. Seven out of 10 web users told Cone that they consider the environmental impact of their purchases at least some of the time, up 4 percentage points over the past two years. But their view of that impact doesn't always square with the language marketers use.

More than two-fifths of respondents said claims of "green" or "environmentally friendly" made them think the item actually had a positive effect on the environment. Another quarter said they thought the item has less impact on the environment than similar products. Many consumers still make unrealistic assumptions about many green products, the report concluded.

But vague statements like "green" without any qualification are acceptable to only 11 percent of consumers. Nearly eight out of 10 (79 percent) are looking for specific information such as a full outline of environmental effects of product packaging , and 75 percent would like companies to teach them more about the terms they use such as "natural."

They take this issue seriously, the report said. If consumers feel like they have been misled — even when marketers don't consider they've been misleading — 71 percent say they will stop buying the product and 37 percent will reject across the board any products from that brand.