Posted tagged ‘sustainable’

Finding your green

June 22, 2011

Finding your green

How green are you? My family and I are often referred to as “Crazy Green” by some of our friends, as in veganicCSA-drop-off-site-keep-extra-dishes-and-cloth-napkins-for-parties-rollerblade-to-work crazy. Most of our friends are at least largely green, and some people we know make us look like drive-around-in-a-Hummer-throwing-beer-cans-out-the-window by comparison.

If you market green products or services, it’s important to have a good idea of how green your core market is. Both green products and green consumers are commonly referred to by their place along a green scale, with the Light Greens (think people who replace light bulbs with CFLs and participate in their community’s curbside recycling program) inhabiting one side and the Deep Greens (see Crazy Green above) on the other. Some people are Light Green in one area of their lives and Deep Green in another. Different green products appeal to different people on this spectrum and the marketers like to place the products themselves along this continuum.

Consumer Green Scale

You don’t necessarily have to have the greenest product to make the biggest positive impact. When Nike introduced a tiny percentage of organic fiber into all their clothing, they suddenly became the US’s largest corporate user of organic cotton. If Pepsi goes through with their plan for the plant plastic eco-bottle, they’ll in effect keep billions of non biodegradable petroleum plastic bottles in the future.

One product I’m helping to launch is an organic carbonated fruit juice called Apple Rush. It comes in a glass bottle and cardboard 4-packs inside of cardboard shipper cases, so it’s definitely not a Deep Green product. But if someone drinks it instead of a typical high-fructose corn syrup-based soft drink in a petroleum plastic bottle, there is a net positive impact for the planet.

Often a product will aim for the dead-center of the Dark Green market with the belief that the Light Greens will be attracted to the purity of it. When Toyota first introduced its new hybrid Prius to the US market in the early 2000s, their marketing was aimed at the dead center of the Dark Green audience, which they determined to be the vegans. Vegans were then a miniscule part of the population (the group has grown a lot in the ensuing years, but is still believed to be less than 1% of the population), hardly a large enough group to be a viable final audience for the car. But Toyota’s marketing research showed that the key vegan values of avoiding harm to animals and treading lightly upon the planet were completely in line with the values of the affluent environmentally sensitive consumers that would be attracted to the Prius. Therefore, for the first several years of production, leather seats were not available on the Prius, something nearly unheard of for a luxury car. Sadly (to me, anyway), demands from nonvegan Prius consumers eventually caused them to offer leather upholstery. Still, this is an excellent example of how aiming for a tiny group in the center of your audience can residually attract a much larger crowd.

If you have a green product or service, try placing it along the Light Green-Deep Green chart. Then place your desired audience on the same chart. You might find some connections you never thought of before.

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.