Posted tagged ‘sustainability’

How to brand sustainability

June 10, 2011

Now Longer Lasting

Our society is moving in two opposing directions at the same time. On one hand, we are actively destroying our environment in so many ways – factory farming, mountaintop mining, overfishing, deforestation, resource depletion, to name a few – that it often seems like our intention is to hasten our own extinction.

At the same time, there are large and growing numbers of people, organizations, businesses, institutions, and even a few governments that are all working hard to move everyone toward a different, more sustainable path. Since you’re reading this post, you may consider yourself a member of this group.

Trying to move society onto this more sustainable path is a Herculean task. We have to convince ourselves and others to rethink how we live, the kind of foods we eat, places we live, ways we get around, the whole way we relate to the environment around us. The good news is that all the tools needed to persuade people to rethink their values exist right now and are well known to quite a few people. The bad news is that most of the people who have mastered these tools use them to urge people to buy more stuff, including some stuff that harms them and their environment. Collectively, these tools are commonly known as branding.

Using branding to change people’s habits and perceptions is a two-step process. Step 1 is showing them what the problem with things as they are, and Step 2 is to show them how your brand will solve that problem. Are you a young man who feels invisible to beautiful women? If you just switch to the right beer, you’ll be able to attract them. Are you uncomfortable with your body type/fashion sense/social standing? There are legions of advertised products available to help you. Once you start looking at TV commercials critically, you’ll notice most of them contain this problem/solution in some way.

Branding seems like the perfect set of tools for convincing people to move toward a more sustainable world. After all, we’re facing serious problems that could greatly affect life as we know it, and the solutions are pretty apparent – simply switch to a greener version of whatever products you’re using now, or perhaps consider using a completely different product (like a bicycle or a bus instead of a car), or no product at all (walk or don’t make the trip).

The obvious problem is that convincing people to overconsume is more lucrative that convincing people to be sensitive of the impacts their purchases make on the environment or society. The good news is that the internet and social networking have started to level the playing field a bit. Now, for little or no money beyond the cost of a camera and a computer (which most people already have), almost any clever and resourceful person can make a YouTube video that could potentially go viral and reach the hearts of as many people as a million dollar TV commercial.

Most of us are aware on some level that the we’re being sold an unsustainable path, but we either don’t know what to do about it, or we don’t feel compelled or empowered to take the right steps. And the forces of overconsumption keep enticing us to stick to our bad habits.

Moving society onto the path toward a new green world takes a lot more than good marketing and communications skills. It also will require research, knowledge, improved technologies and systems, political will and strong leadership. But all of these other things will happen a lot faster when people begin asking for them. And in order to compel them to ask, we need to build the brand – the brand of sustainability.

Community in the new green world.

May 10, 2011

I’ve always been fascinated  with concept of community. We’re social animals, and most of us feel most comfortable and confident when surrounded by people we know and care about.

Our communities have traditionally been made up of our families and close friends, our coworkers, the folks in our churches, schools and neighborhoods. We say “hi” to these people in the street, we meet them for coffee, we gossip with them in the office. These communities are important, and I hope you have some of them in your life.

Now, though, thanks in part to social networking technologies, we are creating whole new communities with people who share our interests and ideals. Now our friends, confidants, and allies may be scattered all over the world – people we may have never even met in person, but with whom we communicate on a regular basis through a myriad of new technology channels. Or they may be right in our own hometown – people who think like us and share our values and dreams, yet people we may never have met if not for Facebook or WordPress or LinkedIn. These communities can manifest themselves in something as simple as a meetup at a local restaurant or as bold as the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt.

There are thousands of these shared interest communities around the world that are all organized around making their lives healthier and their futures brighter. Some groups are working to clean up a local waterway or turn an old factory into a neighborhood center. Others are lobbying to protect wild spaces or family farmers. Together, all these communities are creating a beautiful vision of a place I call the New Green World.

I am a graphic designer and marketing communications expert by trade. My role is to help green companies and organizations share their stories and present their best image to the world. I’ve been doing this for years. I love what I do, I’m good at it, and I feel very blessed to be able to spend my life doing something so fulfilling.

I’m also a bit of a community organizer by avocation. I work on a lot of different issues, but I mostly consider myself to be a sustainability activist, which is to say that I really want to live in a healthy and compassionate world that’s going to be around for a long time, and I’ve committed myself to do whatever I can to make that happen. I am a part of several different communities that are contributing in their own ways to the New Green World, and I’ve even helped start some of them.

This is a blog about communications and community and how one the former can help build the latter. Communications is what I do and community is what is necessary to create the world we all want to live in.

In the coming weeks and months, this blog will examine different ways to communicate across communities. We’ll discuss how to promote green products and services. We’ll explore effective ways to share your ideas and make them grow into realities. We’ll show you great ways to tell your own story and put your best face out to the world.

If there is a message you want to share or a community you want to find or help grow, please stick around. I also invite you to subscribe, comment or whatever. Let’s see if we can start a little community here.