According to KPMG’s Cleantech Report Card, British Columbia (BC) may be the third largest cleantech cluster worldwide. The Canadian province has had a carbon tax since 2008 and its government became carbon-neutral in 2010. BC sits on enormous natural gas reserves, and its hydro-enabled energy prices are low. So what will drive cleantech adoption?
For a major breakthrough, a two-pronged approach is needed:
• Implementation of a planned cap-and-trade system, a favorable investment climate, strong R&D and incubation, and low corporate taxes
• Strong public demand supported by lifestyle branding for green buildings, low-emission transportation, waste-to-energy conversion, and a sustainability-oriented consumer mindset
Despite a favorable cleantech climate in Canada (the government’s posture not withstanding) the public’s concern with climate change is decreasing and adoption of new consumer paradigms is slow. Examples are NIMBY resistance to incineration and the current smart metering backlash against BC Hydro.
In Europe, cleantech, such as new garbage collection methodologies and WtE conversion had to be successfully sold to an initially skeptical public using massive public awareness campaigns. That process continues to be both consumer-driven and top-down.
While 83% of US shoppers now make some form of green choice (Natural Marketing Institute), they need to both see the benefits and feel that a sustainable lifestyle aligns with personal values.
For broad acceptance, cleantech has to offer tangible value. It has to be cost-competitive, supported by credible claims, and become an integral part of the normal lifestyle by a large part of the population.
In today’s disorienting culture, consumers search for safety, meaning and values. While tribes, sectarianism, brands, and niche lifestyles are flourishing, much of the public is looking for “the right thing to do”. This is where values marketing comes in.
In order to succeed, green products need to primarily provide a cost benefit, since this continues to be the number one consumer driver. It should also be easy to use, “cool” to engage with, and desirable for one’s personal brand image. Not surprisingly, the Toyota Prius is not bought primarily for its fuel efficiency, but often more for personal prestige and lifestyle reasons.
Successful products are 50% content and 50% packaging/design, as Apple has proven time and again. Businesses and service providers need to do a better “packaging” job by using lifestyle and values-based, “eco advantage” branding free of green-washing.
Global cleantech venture capital funding has grown 23% in Q311 and BC offers many opportunities. In order for these to grow into mainstream services and brands, businesses need to not only innovate, but also successfully market and leverage their innovation into consumer and financial good will.
Investing in green branding strategies not only manages down-side risks, but builds significant public trust. This will translate to the bottom line and grow into a brand asset value that can be significantly higher than a company’s IP.
Article by Stephan Burckhardt, a cleantech, high-tech brand and marketing consultant based in British Columbia.