Who’s Ever Seen A Green Product Manager?

by drjim on May 4, 2009

Products That Go "Green" Can Become Magically Delicious To Customers

Products That Go “Green” Can Become Magically Delicious To Customers

Ok, I’ll admit it – sometimes I throw away a plastic bottle that I know could have been recycled. I do it just because it’s too much effort to walk the extra distance to hunt down the recycle bin and put it where it’s supposed to go. So if I’m willing to sin this much, is there any hope for us product mangers to ever “go green“?

It turns out that the world of products and product mangers isn’t so much driven by a desire to be a good citizen of this planet (something that apparently I still need to learn), but rather by hard, cold bottom line results. That being said, some interesting things are starting to happen out there in the marketplace.

Once upon a time everyone thought that if you boosted the quality of your product, then of course you had to raise your prices also. It turns out that not only was this wrong, but it was dead wrong – a bunch of companies showed everyone that they could not only boost quality but that they could also cut prices. Case(s) in point: Dell, Apple, Toyota, etc.

Now it’s starting to look like we might have to learn this lesson all over when it comes to going green with our products.

Here’s the secret: if you’ve been focusing on the costs of making your product more environmentally friendly, then you’ve been looking in the wrong direction. The trick is to look for ways to make less of a mess when your product is being created. Oh, and you service product mangers need to get in on this also.

Just in case you think that this really can’t be done, think again. The poster child for going green in a big way is a Subaru plant located in Indiana. There 3,000 employees make about 800 cars a day. They’ve been able to reduce the amount of electricity that they use per car by 14% (that’s a LOT of electricity) and (here’s the big one) they have not shipped any waste to a landfill since 2004.

If a big old car plant can do that, then just imagine what a high tech product team should be able to do. I’ve got some tips that just might make your product a bit more green, a bit more profitable, and a bit more attractive to your customers. More next time.

Do you think that your product is “green” right now? Do your customers seem to care about buying green products? Is a product’s green qualities something that they consider when making a purchasing decision? Are you planning any changes to make your product more green? Leave me a comment and let me know what you are thinking.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Stuart Foster May 4, 2009 at 10:46 am

Love the sarcasm… I definitely have to hand it to the people over at that Subaru plant, it’s gotten major press, praise and the respect of quite a few environmentalists. I think the real ire can be directed at those companies actively engaging in greenwashing.

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Dr. Jim Anderson May 5, 2009 at 9:07 am

Stuart: what surprised me was that it was a SUBARU plant that had shown such green innovation. Where are GM, Chrysler, Mercedes, etc. – they have deeper pockets and you would have thought that they would have been leading the green charge. Oh well, sometimes the little guys do win…!

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Lou May 12, 2009 at 12:24 pm

The Green movement is about being more efficient. All companies should go through this exercise; they will discover many cost reductions that will not only categorize themselves as Green, but improve their business. Of course, the companies that do this are the high performing, innovative companies that constantly are mentioned in case studies for running a successful business, i.e Dell and Toyota.

My experience with customers is that they will not pay more than a 10% premium for Green, if any. But, if two products are priced the same most will vote with their conscious and go with the environmentally friendly product.

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Dr. Jim Anderson May 13, 2009 at 8:41 pm

Lou: good points all around. I was just reading one of my older marketing books and it reminded me of a core truth: customers will buy on emotion, and justify on logic. The whole Green area might be a classic case of this – perhaps if your product is just a bit “greener” than the competition, you’ll have an emotional appeal that the other guys just can’t touch!

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