Market Focus - Environmentalists
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines an environmentalist as "an advocate of environmentalism" and as "one concerned about environmental quality, especially of the human environment with respect to the control of pollution." However you define environmentalists, the League of Conservation Voters (LCV), a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that gives a political voice to the national environmental and conservation community, cites that there are approximately 10 million to 12 million members of environmental organizations in the United States—the organization's own definition of environmentalist is a dues-paying member of a state-based or national environmental organization. The majority, or about 76 percent, of these members are over 45 years old. As well, 54 percent of these members are women.
The Washington, D.C.-based LCV also breaks down those numbers by geography. The organization has found that 15 percent of the people in the electorate in the Southwest identify themselves as environmentalists; 14 percent do so in the Northwest; and in the Midwest, 11 percent of them self-identify as environmentalists. As well, the majority of environmentalists are Caucasian—approximately 87 percent—and 65 percent have a child under 18 in the household, says the agency.
Myriad of Concerns
Defining what an environmentalist is goes far beyond mere numbers. "It's not easy to pin down exactly what an environmentalist is these days," says Nancy Purcell, strategic development manager for Oakland, Calif.-based Names in the News, a list brokerage and management firm that works with nonprofits. "I think, perhaps, the old view of the environmentalist, when the movement really started with Earth Day 30-some years ago, has certainly evolved, and there are different types of environmentalists based on their entry into the issue."
This, in fact, is a diverse bunch, with many different segments of the population interested in keeping our planet a cleaner place and preserving its resources for myriad reasons. For example, there are recreational environmentalists, says Purcell. These are the campers, outdoorsmen, hikers, bicyclists, as well as fishermen and hunters who are concerned with preserving an unspoiled environment. Purcell says, "If you're a duck hunter, you may be very concerned about things like water preservation, for instance. Or clean water for fly fishing."
Others may be legacy environmentalists. These are folks concerned about preserving a cleaner, healthier environment for subsequent generations. Issues on their agendas may include habitat preservation or clear cutting of full-grown forests. Still more folks, says Purcell, may approach the issue from an evangelical perspective—those who see environmental stewardship as a moral issue. And of course there is the health component, with many environmentalists concerned about the health effects pollution has on the earth and its inhabitants. Groundwater contamination, smog, acid rain and the use of pesticides are issues that may be of great concern to them.
There also are groups and individuals involved in environmental litigation, lobbying and public education campaigns. "That's where you get the higher education levels, higher income levels," says Purcell. "There may be folks whose issues overlap," she adds. "The common ground being a concern for the environment."
When it comes to the products and services that this diverse group seeks out, that too is greatly affected by their entry point into the issue. If they are, indeed, outdoorsmen and women, they may be responsive to offers of sporting goods, travel packages and clothing catalogs. Others who are interested in conserving natural resources and reducing pollution may be on the lookout for hybrid cars, or solar panels for their house to help cut down their dependency on depletable resources—as well as lower their electrical bills.
Those who seek a cleaner environment for the purpose of healthier living may be interested in organic food and possibly vegetarianism. Purcell adds, "There are a lot of people interested in [natural] gardening and limiting the use of pesticides, as well as making their yards and their neighborhoods [friendly] to wildlife and to draw birds."
Additional products of interest to this group may include educational materials, as well as maps and guides, which make good premiums for several segments of this customer base. Purcell explains, "If you expand the environmental market to include the preservation of wildlife, for instance—and there's significant overlap there—I think there's a lot of educational materials, books and publications that are really in demand by this market."
A Direct Connection
No matter the specific focus of the environmentalists you're trying to reach, direct mail is a good way to communicate with these folks. Purcell says, "Direct mail is an excellent channel for environmental offers, because it allows the organizations the real estate to explain the cause and the issues that are involved." Direct mail packages allow for the combination of effective visuals with a compelling story, whether it's to illustrate the damage off-shore drilling is having on the Arctic or conversely showing a pristine wilderness that is in danger of being compromised by development or deforestation.
In terms of offers, due to the evangelical and educational aspect of this market, Purcell notes the continuing popularity of premiums that help these concerned citizens show their pride and commitment to their causes.
"People want bumper stickers, they want tote bags, address labels," she notes. "For other offers, it's natural to offer a guide or a map." She adds, however, for issues that involve litigation and lobbying, offers aren't premium-driven at all.
The key to creating an effective direct mail message to environmentalists, whatever their specific concern, is currency and relevance.
"Talk about local and timely issues," suggests Mark Sokolove, press secretary for LCV. "Top issues of concern to voters/environmental voters vary by region and include very local issues." For example, a recent survey conducted in the Southwest by the LCV Education Fund determined that the top five issues among the top 10 percent of likely environmental voters in that region were:
- lack of water, 48 percent;
- air pollution, 28 percent;
- water pollution, 26 percent;
- urban sprawl/over-development, 24 percent; and
- safe drinking water, 11 percent.
Experts say that understanding the specific perspective, as well as local environmental concerns of the folks you're trying to reach, will help your direct marketing campaign connect with this audience. Using recycled paper for your direct mailings when possible, can't hurt either.