The Crunch

Drills or Holes?

Not long ago, the Harvard Business Review published a series of roundtable discussions about the green revolution and its implications for marketing. Steve Bishop, of the design consultancy IDEO, had a provocative article on the problems of marketing to the green consumer.

Trying to build “green myths” into mainstream products risks alienating their mainstream consumers, Bishop contends. On the other hand, truly green products that target environmentalist consumers have difficulty reaching a mainstream market.

As a solution, he suggests focusing on developing mainstream products with “green outcomes.”

To illustrate, he quotes the marketing theorist Theodore Levitt, who famously wrote: “People who buy drills don’t need drills; they need holes.” Similarly, Bishop says, modern consumers don’t simply want green products, but rather solutions to their problems that also make sense for our environment.

As an example, he cites a bicycle company which created a no-frills bike that appealed to the 160 million Americans who don’t ride bikes, and who appreciate the “green outcome” of reducing greenhouse gases by pedaling instead of driving.

And the reader is left with the question: What are YOU selling: drills or holes?

—DB

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