How Utility Marketing Can Motivate the Moveable Middle


As Marketers, we face a fundamental and sometimes paradoxical challenge. How do we continue to support, inspire and motivate current customers while attracting a continuous flow of new customers? And, when it comes to recruiting the Conscious Consumer, how do you appeal to a customer that makes purchase decisions based on factors, which may or may not be in your control?

It’s a pretty big question and like any big issue, the best way to a solution is to break it down into smaller parts. Addressing the smallest parts can produce the building blocks to address even the most complex and daunting issue. (The process also helps keep us sane…for the most part.)

Conscious Consumer Segments

When we began this journey of exploring the habits, influences and emotional connections that drive Conscious Consumer decisions, we discovered that Conscious Consumers fall into a few unique segments and not all Conscious Consumers behave the same way. In any big group there are always the leaders – that top 10% who are the finest examples of conscious living. You know the ones, the valedictorians who are the masters of living green.

But, we figured that the largest group would be the non-adopters – those that haven’t made any steps towards these lifestyle choices.  But, we were wrong. (Which happens every once in awhile.)

Instead, we discovered that the biggest segment of Conscious Consumers fall into the  “The Moveable Middle.”  Depending on how you slice our research data, anywhere from 50% – 70% of the U.S. population fall into the Moveable Middle segment.

What defines the Moveable Middle?

Moveable Middle consumers are people that may not be 100% green but try whenever possible to make greener choices. They may not eat 100% organic, 100% of the time, but they have changed their shopping choices to include more whole fruits and vegetables (sometimes organic, sometimes not). To keep going with the analogy, the Moveable Middle folks are average or above average students who want to be in that top 10% -because after all, don’t we all want to be valedictorians?

These consumers told us that they are looking for someone or something to be their motivator, educator and coach to help guide their “green progression.” And, they tend to give up conscious consuming habits when they have lost interest or will power (in some cases giving up both).  In essence, they want to do more but don’t know how and are looking for someone or something to help keep them going.

Here in lies the big ah ha!

There is a huge opportunity for brands to be this coach, motivator, educator and mentor.  More importantly,  Moveable Middle consumers don’t expect brands to be 100% Conscious Consumer-perfect. (Whew!)

As a brand you don’t need to be perfect, you just need to carve out at least one conscious path and allow people to easily follow and/or participate if they choose.

Enter Utility Marketing

Utility Marketing is about developing tools that make people’s lives easier by helping them understand their needs and by addressing their issues. Put simply, Utility Marketing highlights the components of a brands “usefulness” in helping consumers change behavior. It’s a change from pushing out marketing messages to pulling in consumers by providing tools for personal change and/or social advancement.

It may sound big and scary, but it doesn’t have to be. Here are a few examples of how we have baked in utility marketing techniques for our clients:

How do you start?

Take a look at your current marketing messages and programs and ask yourself these questions:

  • Are there ways that your brand can be a expert voice, a leader or motivator?
  • Do you make it easy for people to listen and learn from you?
  • Are you leveraging your website and social media communities as soundboard for change?
  • What can you do to differentiate yourself from your competition?

What makes utility marketing effective is layering innovation with social outreach. Start small by asking your advocates what your brand can do to continue to motivate change.  After all, no matter where you consumers live on the path to Conscious Consumers, there is always room for a leader. Is it you?

Look for more details as we rollout our Mintel Research study findings in the next several weeks.