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  • Writer's pictureLarry Washington

Danger, assumptions ahead.

You’re human so I must label you.

We love to put people into buckets. Whether it’s because of the way someone looks or speaks or whether they belong to a certain organization, we immediately form a “rock solid” opinion of them. It’s a human attribute born out of our innate need for understanding.

For the most part we as individuals embrace the idea of being labeled. We dress and speak to present a desired image and therefore cause assumptions to be made about us personally. It’s how we make sure we’re accepted into the right tribe while attracting friends that hold our same values.

The green consumer.

This is all very common and innocent as part of the typical human experience but it can be a pretty big problem in the world of communication. Take for instance the “green” consumer. They seem to fall into a nice, neat bucket that leads to a simple communication strategy. But don’t assume too much.

Know your audience inside and out.

For instance, don’t try to tell the “green” consumer what to do. That’s a sure fire way to turn them off. Remember to use a key rule of behavior change; give them options and then steer the ship. Give this audience a choice so they’re in control and know they aren’t being manipulated. It’s a good way to inspire them to champion your message and brag about that smart choice to their personal network.

Hearts aren’t always bleeding green either. According to research published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, people are more likely to choose green products when in public. The study paints a clear picture of social status as a key driver for choice in sustainable products. This is great knowledge for marketers because it’s a clear path to effective communication if used with an empathetic understanding.

The most dangerous assumption about this group, however, is assuming they know more than they really do. If you deliver a message to them with the belief that they already get the intricacies of sustainability surrounding your product you may end up with a message that causes confusion and even backlash. So don’t assume they are beyond education and don’t pass up any opportunity to tout a sustainability aspect of your product, no matter how small.

Be sure of your starting point.

Assumption in the sustainable communications world can lead you down a pretty rocky road but so will the wrong research you’re creating your assumptions from. Pay close attention specifically to audience segments used by different organizations. Do they have a political bias embedded in them? Are they too shallow or limited? Segments touted as unique can sometimes burn you because they’re created specifically to be unique not necessarily for accuracy.

Know what your audiences are thinking and feeling today, how their mindsets have shifted, how to interpret what they’re thinking and how to properly bring them into the fold with your communications. Leave the assumptions to the everyday human experience.

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