I love, love, love what Method does to sell soap. This one takes it up a level (a mile?): these are stills grabbed from a motion picture online ad for Method's "wood for good" floor cleaner, found at treehugger.com
Talk about the height (or low) of me-tooism. But then, what do you expect? If you're on the Hummer account, what choice do you have in a market that's making you the whipping boy of climate change? Don't you sort of have to grasp for whatever straw you can — and push 20 mph on the highway as miserly gas consumption? I feel for these guys, I really do: it's like a friend once said of parking meter readers; "Why would you want a job where everyone hates you?"
I suppose if you're in the auto industry, you do the best you can playing catch-up with a world view on energy that's quickly overtaking you . Thus the above shill, along with GM's other worthy effort but dubious play at eco-credibility.
It's quite a metaphor: living for today and paying for it tomorrow.
GE is literally banking that Americans' infamous "I'll worry about it later" behavior, which got us into this mess in the first place, will clean up the Earth. For every dollar you borrow with its new rewards credit card, GE will donate a penny to carbon offset programs
Nathan Schock has a great post about it on his Greenway Communiqué. I'm a believer in incremental steps (there's no silver bullet) to turn around global warming and other concerns, but this one has a bit of a stink to it. It seems a perversion of the idea people "vote" with their wallets; but perhaps when it comes to economics and human behavior, the scientists were right: plastic stays in the environment forever.
So I'm trying to get this blog dialed into technorati. Smarter people than me have debated the merits of that service. At least one of them will redeem my post if you go read his excellent discussion of the futility and frustration of what he and I have now described as the "social ghettos" of "social networking." As a partner at interactive developer Electric Pulp, Aaron Mentle puts geek and theory into value-adding practice, so he's more than qualified to break it down. The fruits of his labor (and that of his homies) is evident here.
Here's my linkage. See if it does anything to get me networked (or sticks me in yet one more ghetto).
Are green companies color blind? Are they too obsessed with their own plumage to recognize that, by itself, green may not attract the audiences they really need?
A few recent blog posts and articles inform the dilemma; top of the list is a must-read from Joel Makower. In it, he gives some great analysis on a study by marketing intelligence veterans Yankelovich, called "Going Green". Makower calls the report "at once fascinating and maddening."
That's because, according to Yakelovich, "The majority of consumers really don't care all that much about the
environment. Green simply doesn't has not captured the public
Acoording to Yankelovich's study, 37% of consumers feel "highly
concerned" about environmental
issues, but only 25% feel "highly knowledgeable" about them.
Simultaneously, a lonely 22% "feel they can make a difference when it
Can that possibly be true? It seems so out of alignment with what we see and read in the media. We're in the middle of a green revolution, right?
Well, some green companies aren't waiting to find out. Last week the Wall Street Journal ran a story about an apparel maker on a serious sustainable mission trying to make inroads in mainstream retail. The angle was how the company, Indigenous Designs, downplays its green cred as a nice "bonus," choosing instead to emphasize the quality and stylings of its garments (thanks to Tom Monahan for the tip).
"This marketing strategy — having a do-good message but not beating people over the head with it — has helped Indigenous Designs to survive... while many of its green peers have languished in ecofriendly niches or gone out of business altogether," according to reporter Gwendolyn Bounds.
"Companies that lead with green and ecofriendliness are in very dangerous territory because they are often not competitive on fashion or function and ask the consumer to make a compromise," says George Rosenbaum, chairman of Leo J. Shapiro & Associates, a Chicago consumer-research firm. "Retailers want green, but they won't let green stay in the store for long if it's not as good."
That matches up perfectly with the Yankelovich study. But this should shouldn't come as a shock, as this post from Seth Godin reminds us: what's interesting to you is not always going to yank your customer's crank. Even agencies, who are supposed to know this, make this mistake (something many of us wrote about this time last year re: agency.com).
Clearly, there's a disconnect between our hearts, minds and consumption. It's what Yankelovich calls the "mushiness" index. And this, lads and lasses, is why we're here at this blog: companies with sustainable products and services need marketers and advertisers to turn the mushiness into something concrete.
The leaders know that the way to do this is pretty fundamental: tell a compelling story, engage, empower and entertain the audience; and, at the very, very least, make it easier for constituents to buy. And by the way, better make sure you have a remarkable product.
"People don't buy products. They buy solutions to problems," as Makower quotes Harvard Business School savant Ted Levitt. "But since most consumers don't see the environment as a problem,
green marketers must take an extra step, helping them not just to
understand the problem, but to actually care about it."
There's a lesson here: when it comes to marketing green, in an often indifferent marketplace, don't talk like a green company. Talk like a great company.
Great advertising, like great art, forces you to see the world in a new way. It's the hammer that shapes reality, and when it's good, getting hammered is awesome.
Let's take an art pause, then, to remind us of the power of aesthetics when communicating a green message. And that, no, it doesn't have to include tree frogs and leaf patterns.
Although the new work of photography of Chris Jordan has circulated on design and anti-consumerism blogs for much of this year, it seems fitting to share here. His exhibit "Running With the Numbers" features huge works intended to be experienced in person in order to grasp the fantastic detail in the large-format prints.
When you check out the exhibit, be patient: the page takes a while to load, but it's totally worth it. Here's a preview: "Paper Bags," which depicts on in a 60x80" canvas, the 1.4 million paper bags used every hour in the US.
I'm suddenly finding too many cool examples of genius in green communications not to share. Here's my second of the day from American Copywriter (thanks kids). They spotlight it for its brilliance with one of advertising's toughest proving grounds: the billboard. As the sun moves, an awning above the board casts a shadow that creates a wicked illusion.
I'm sharing it for what I hope are obvious reasons: can't your sustainable brand use this kind of thinking?
Here's an ad for a German energy company (Epuron) that just knocked me over.
A pristine example of everything that's good and wonderful and possible in the evolving world of communicating green. The brilliance is in its subtlety and its refusal to either hammer you over the head or cling to any of the clichés of the sustainability convo. A rockin' example of what's to come — and how the bar keeping rising in this category.
Let's be clear about one thing: Hummers are bullshit. Cool, exciting, gorgeous, intimidating, fun, but alas, total bullshit. One day when they run on hydrogen and cost about 25 grand less, I will gladly buy one (used, of course).
But there's something more bullshitty than a Hummer: Hummer vandalism. Worst of all is the sanctimony projected by assholes who justify it as sending a pro-environmental message, that it somehow serves to protect the earth.
In fact, it does neither. If anything, it sends the completely wrong message.
The latest example is the destruction of Washingtonian Gareth Groves's brand new, $38,000 Hummer. Sometime Monday night, two masked men smashed the windows, slashed tired and scratched a message into the body that read "FOR THE ENVIRON," according to the NYT. (pictured above: a separate "direct action" by the Earth Liberation Front at a car dealership, which, apparently didn't deter people like Groves from buying or companies like GM from building).
Such is the modus operandi of extremist groups like ELF (to whom I will not link, for I dislike them quite). And it sends the worst message about the green agenda: it's the domain of extremists out of synch with those who believe in the rule of law; it's a place external to the majority of basically decent, well-meaning people.
That vandalism of one guy's gas-guzzling, monster SUV makes national news actually reveals something important: not just that this kind of uber-bullshit is counter-productive to green activism, but that green activism has succeeded in turning on a mainstream audience. And that audience has begun, albeit slowly, to integrate an eco-agenda into everyday life so much so that Hummer vandalism seems completely out of touch with the movement. And that's newsworthy.
Of course, humans will continue to build and buy Hummers, along with a lot of other foolish toys and distractions. But this episode reminds me of something a judge said when she handed down sentences last summer after a couple of contrite ELF 'activists' pled guilty to a slew of arsons that caused over $40 million in damages in several western states.
"Fear and intimidation can play no part in changing the hearts and minds of people in a democracy," U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken said.
It's one thing to be what I've called aggressive in communications; it's another to be violent and destructive.
Stanislas Meyerhoff, one of the defendants in the ELF arson case, apologized before his sentencing, by admitting that his criminal acts actually cut off debate and harmed people. “I was
ignorant of history and economy and acted from a faulty and narrow
vision as an ordinary bigot,” he said, his voice breaking at times. “A
million times over I apologize …”
It Grows on Trees is about advertising and marketing green. Find policy and activist chat somewhere else. This is where we get down and dirty on brand maneuvers to communicate green in a noisy marketplace. The object is simple: make sustainability mainstream and grow business.