Thursday, April 30, 2009

eBay: the Green Online Giant?

eBay has always been about “reuse” – one man’s trash, and all that. So in a way, they’ve always supported a “greener” way of shopping. Well, the online giant is now capitalizing on that with a new spin on the old sell.

Now they realize the world is ready to shop greener, and almost without changing anything, their messaging has changed. Same online garage sale, now wrapped in green. And you know what? I don’t mind the new message. I don’t call it “greenwashing,” really. It’s just recognizing a new reason people are buying.

(It's really just a small part of their huge site, impossible to find from their main page. And they call it their "Green Team.")

eBay’s also taking other baby steps to help the planet, with their Giving Works - a way to donate a portion of sales to nonprofit causes - and MicroPlace - a micro lending service that supports sustainable development.

Hey, if every big company like this is making incremental changes in the way they do business, that’s a good thing. Now when they promote it, they need to drastically improve their advertising creative. (See my post from two days ago, below.)

(I got this tidbit from PSFK, “inspiration to make things better,” and they got it from TreeHugger.)

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Dove: Campaign For Real Beauty

This campaign is now 3 years old. And the praise and criticism has made it one of the most talked about ad campaigns in recent history. The talk continues today (just do a Twitter search).

Most people praised Dove for simply calling out the beauty industry for its unrealistic definition of beauty. Others criticized it for actually retouching their print ads featuring “real” women. Whoops.

Personally, I think the net effect is very positive. While they took a mis-step or two with the retouching, they started an important conversation. The high road has still been taken. They're still leading this thinking in their industry.

That, and Dove’s Self-Esteem Fund means they are walking the talk.

Read more criticism, HERE.

And here's the famed video that's gotten over ten million views (on multiple postings).

(The campaign was developed by Ogilvy & Mather, Toronto, and has won about every major creative award known to man. Kudos.)

This stuff takes guts. Brands will be criticized. And the brave ones will win.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Why Does “Green” Creative Suck?

I’ve been spending a good deal of time lately seeking out "good"/cause/green/belief-brand advertising. And I gotta be honest, most of it blows. It's like the companies that do good don't know how to hire a decent agency, and the decent agencies don't see the opportunity in building a brand while doing something good.

I hope there will come a day when ad geniuses will see the value in having something good to say. And vice versa – the day when companies doing good will see the value in better (much better) creative.

Case in point (yawn):

There are notable exceptions, many featured on this blog. Like THIS, and THIS, and THIS. Oh, and I also like the Dove stuff. (I'll tackle that in some upcoming post.)

Good golly, can’t we do better?

Monday, April 27, 2009

Steal This Idea: Green Day, Please Rock Earth Day

Of all the events that happened on Earth Day (4/22), the one I wanted to see was the music festival headlined by Green Day, where I could enter to win a Ford Fusion Hybrid, and plant a tree on my way out.

Of course, that didn’t happen. I just made it up.

Where was Green Day on Earth Day? Does anyone know if they played a show? They could have (should have) done more than rawk. They should OWN that mutha-effin’ day.

Gentlemen, you have 51 weeks to get ready.

Friday, April 24, 2009

The Apologist Trap

When aligning your brand with a “good” cause, be careful. It may be tempting to try to make amends for the things your company gets angry letters about. For example, Budweiser may get letters from the families of drunk driving victims. And indeed, many booze brands run ads telling us to “drink responsibly.” You see where this is going.

Should a booze brand create a Marketing+Good campaign that says, “for every purchase, a donation will be made to MADD”? No doubt, it’s a fantastic cause, but this strategy backfires for a booze brand. Suddenly, instead of aligning a positive brand attribute with a positive customer belief, Budweiser is admitting it’s complicit in a huge problem. Not great marketing.

Instead, they can think about what the brand stands for (“fun, escape, sports, possibilities, Clydesdales”), and maybe find something that consumers can embrace, that they don’t have to apologize for. How about, “put a college athlete through senior year” – the Bud scholarship fund. (Can’t do anything under-age, of course.) Or, emphasizing its American roots and natural ingredients, a tie in to Farm Aid wouldn’t be too far a stretch. The beer company supports American farmers, and so can you. A real reason to buy Bud over Miller, align values with the customer, and do a little good in the process.

More on "bad seed brands" and Good, in later posts.

(PS - I stole that image from someecards, which are fantastic, and available HERE.)

Thursday, April 23, 2009

100,000 Ford Hybrid SUVs

Detroit is struggling. That’s what’s in the news.

What isn’t in the news, is this. Ford recently shipped its 100,000th hybrid SUV. Wait a second, I thought they weren’t selling any cars?

God bless America. We’re doing good stuff. But "what we have here, is a failure to communicate."

Read all about it, HERE.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

A Few Nice Sentences from The Green Marketing Manifesto (Recommended!)

If you haven't read The Green Marketing Manifesto (Wiley, 2007), I recommend it. It’s not as hippy-dippy as the title sounds. It’s written by an ad agency guy, John Grant (co-founder of one of the more groundbreaking ad agencies in the UK, St. Luke’s.) It’s not just about environmental or “cause” marketing. It’s about how for-profit companies can earn loyalty and grow by working with their customers for good. To wit:

“This book is about green marketing as a creative opportunity, to innovate in ways that make a difference and at the same time achieve business success.”

“When I say ‘green’ in the title of this book, while I do mean climate change, I also mean other environmental and social issues too.”

“In my view we should see green marketing as the next revolution (after the internet).”

“(The beautiful coincidence is) marketing and innovation examples where what is right for the environment is also good for a business. This is a very fast-moving area.”

“All three of these trends (sustainability, web 2.0, and new marketing) are based on similar tendencies: the feeling of wanting to change things, social and ethical values, community, a fascination with the future, a belief in the power of the individual and in adhocracy, advocacy and people power.”

And that’s just the introduction. More nuggets to come, I'm sure.

More helpful reviews on Amazon, I'm sure.

(Thanks to Marty McDonald of Egg for the recommendation.)

Monday, April 20, 2009

Turning Transparency Into Leadership*

Here’s a cool story in the NYTimes (4/17/09) about a company embracing total disclosure.

They make Elovena oats. Apparently part of the oat-making process involves water use. And these guys are much easier on the earth with their water consumption than their competitors. So, they decided to be the first ones to put an H2O label on their package. Part of a “total impact” statement. They’re volunteering to be measured by it.

For a low-loyalty product, they’re essentially inventing a new reason for preference. They’re using water they way their whole category should be, and by pointing that out, they win. They’re doing good, breaking parity, and showing thought-leadership in the category.

Any brand can do this. Operate the way the whole category ought to, and make a little noise about it. Bingo, you’re the leader.

See the NYTimes article, HERE.

(* AKA, the worst title of a blog post ever. I'll work on that.)

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Holy Controversial Marketing, Batman

It’s true. Any brand that does anything “good” will get letters. Some good, some bad. In fact, I’m betting that any company that incorporates something charitable or “green” will get more hate mail than a campaign that just sells stuff. And the letters will be from people who believe that doing good is important. Something like, “Sure you’re doing something, but you should be doing a dozen MORE things too! You’re lame!”

Doing good invites controversy. It invites participation. It invites letters. Which is really scary for some companies.

Not for Credo Mobile, apparently. They’re political. They’re controversial. They’re more clear in their beliefs than most presidential candidates.

They’re even running a banner ad that says, “We’ll help you support Planned Parenthood if you want.” Now that’s a gutsy brand. (Perhaps too gutsy?)

Essentially Credo says, sign up with us, and we’ll make a donation of your bill to the cause of your choice. (And they have a heavily liberal bent.)

I’m not suggesting every brand can get away with this. (Maybe not even Credo.) But every brand can learn to have a little courage to declare they believe in something. And watch like-minded consumers line up to buy.

It’s the new brand landscape. Much of the control is now in the hands of the consumers. The quicker a company understands that, and is okay with engaging in the dialogue, the better off it will be. The more stuff it will be able to do. Fear of letters can paralyze a brand. Being okay with a dialogue can liberate it.

(The ads are running in Good Magazine and on the Good site. In case you're interested, here's Credo Mobile's site.)

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Tide: Leading With Their Good Foot

From Brandweek, 4/10. “Procter & Gamble has redesigned its Tide detergent bottles, as part of a cause marketing program to raise funds for disaster relief. The packaging change is the most significant in the brand’s 60-year history.”

Tide is going crazy for doing “good.” From their ads, to their social media experiments, it’s one of P&G’s biggest brands, and they have seen the future.

Their societal (“cause”) sub-campaign called “Loads Of Hope,” has begun wagging the dog.

Saatchi and Saatchi is the agency. Read the whole Brandweek story HERE.

Thanks to Griffin F for this one.

Monday, April 13, 2009

If This Is Real, It Bums Me Out

“Advertising on the Homeless Since 2005.”


This is craziness. And easily rationalized craziness, at that. “It gives them something to do.” – “It gives them a little money.” Using down-and-out people as billboards is – well, just one step below Facebook selling it’s users as media online.

And if Marshall McLuhan was right, and “the medium IS the message,” what’s the message of putting your logo on a homeless person?

Smells like exploitation. Am I wrong? Check it out, HERE.

(Thanks to my friend Karen W for this one.)

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Exclusive! The M+G Blog-erview w/Saatchi S’ Director of Brand Planning, pt. 2 of 2

(continued from yesterday’s post, the rest of the conversation with one of Saatchi’s sustainability gurus. Scroll down for the first half of my chat with Cari Jacobs.)

M+G: What Saatchi S project do you think has had the biggest impact so far?

Cari Jacobs: I’ll start with the practice that I love, because I love it. We call it “sit in bliss.” And it’s one day a week across all the Saatchi-S offices, we simultaneously sit for about an hour in sort of a “mindfulness” or meditation state, and it’s a practice we’ve done together since the beginning. When you’re sitting with your colleagues around the work you’re doing, it’s a really powerful tool. And you’re doing it with your colleagues. You hear about these corporate retreats and stuff, but it’s something we really believe in.

As for the work, probably our work with WalMart has had the biggest impact. For most suppliers, WalMart can represent 25-40% of a brand’s revenue (like Coke, Pepsi). Think about the power of that. If WalMart puts out communication to their supplier that if they don’t do these five things you won’t get shelf space – or, conversely, if they do – they have a huge about of influence at the billion- and trillion-dollar level. It’s something we did with the PSP (personal sustainability project) for WalMart’s employee base. It really gives them a way to connect.

One employee had the idea to un-light the soda machines to save energy, and it saved gazillions – like a couple million dollars – hang on - (goes off phone to ask a co-worker) – it saved one million dollars. Just from unscrewing the lights in soda machines. From one employee. They also started doing this thing called a “recycling sandwich” where they bail their recyclables into big bundles, so they could turn recycling into a money-making thing.

M+G: How do you think successful brands will be doing “good” say, 10 years from now?

CJ: There’s so many questions inside that question. My first answer was going to be Free, Clean, Clear, and Good. (As in, free of bad things chemicals, additives, etc.) But I think it’s about brands ultimately being transparent, authentic, local (even if they’re global), and I’m hoping soulful in the most traditional sense of the word – like having a real soul that matches the soul-identity of consumers. And I’d hope that’s the way they design their entire revenue stream. So they increase margins not by increasing price or adding skus, but by decreasing waste. They measure growth by how much waste and excess they don’t create. Like “reverse-excess” brands, ya know? I think there’s some magic in the cottage-industry feel too. A modernized version – getting goods to people in ways that support a local community. We don’t want to retreat into our safe little caves, of course. But I’d just be happy if everything in five years was just Free, Clean, Clear, and Good. From the food we eat to the stuff we put on our skin. If everyone just did that, the impact would be unfathomable.

M+G: I get Free, Clean, Clear … but what’s “Good?”

CJ: That’s hard to define, but just operating with integrity. Like with skin care, and phthalates. Commonly listed as “Fragrance.” But it’s not. It’s what makes stuff stick. – lipstick, makeup, lotion … the beauty care category is completely unregulated. Think of your morning routine. Soap, shampoo, lotion, after shave, etc – all of it has phthalates in it. All of it. And they don’t measure the total effect of using it all. And I wish some company had the courage to take a good hard look at that.
In the EU, they have better controls on those things. … When I think of good I think of the four strains of sustainability and operating with the highest level of integrity.

We also define it as a “Blue” company, which is what we call those that go beyond green. And that really kind of covers it, doesn’t it? Those four things. Hopefully the zeitgeist is moving that way, and even “bad seed” brands will come around.

CJ: Can I answer a question I saw on your blog?

M+G: Please do!

CJ: It was something like, “Can a brand actually stand for ‘good?’” When I was growing up, I had friends that were into very esoteric studies at Berkeley and stuff. But I always believed that what I was about was trying to communicate as authentically as possible. I believe that at the heart of the brands we connect with, it reflects back into our own hearts. If I could do one thing, it would be to make that connection more important in the heart of our brands. And we both have to show up – the brand and the customer. It’s about the mom wanting a sustainable product, and knowing that her little decision is one small vote toward her own shifting identity. That’s the cultural anthropologist in me. The extent to which I can affect that, that would be a great contribution in my tiny life.

Thanks, Cari. Fantastic stuff.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Exclusive! The M+G Blog-erview w/Saatchi S’ Director of Brand Planning, pt. 1 of 2

Here’s a cool thing. I got to talk with Cari Jacobs, Group Director of Brand Planning and Activation at Saatchi S and ask her a few questions. For those who don’t know, Saatchi S is their sustainability office, with huge clients like WalMart, Frito-Lay, P&G, Dell, General Mills, etc. You can read Cari’s bio HERE, under “Who’s In Charge.” She’s a very enlightened, insightful marketer, so if there’s anything here that doesn’t make sense, it’s probably because I couldn’t type fast enough. Enjoy.

M+G: Hey Cari. How are things at Saatchi S?

Cari Jacobs: Things are good. Like all companies we are trying to adjust to the new marketplace. Luckily we’re in sustainability, so we’re trying to do that with the least amount of human impact, but the most financial impact.

M+G: What are you working on today?

CJ: Well, we’re largely a consulting firm, so a lot of it’s confidential, but … the work we do helps clients understand their “north star” sustainability goals. North stars that have concrete sustainability numbers in them, but also emotional, aspirational aspects. We work down through 3 separate channels, and find the nexus – Operations (like water, energy, waste, life-cycle), Brand Activation (like brand planning, that’s my group) cultural/anthropological studies to find how consumers will be activated – there’s no real reason to call it that other than the other names were taken at Saatchi. (And Outreach.)
For example, for General Mills’ Green Giant, the first year we were digging in deep with them, getting operations to sit in the room with marketing and PR to look at the whole picture, from packaging to farming – across their supply chain, and identify areas that might be blind spots. Like GMO – if they were to put a position out into the marketplace that was controversial, how they should do that.

Our goal is not to unseat the brand’s current position. We put the lens of sustainability over it. In the case of Green Giant – their vegetables are “as nutritious as fresh,” with flash freezing to preserve them like our grandparents used to do. It’s a misunderstood process in frozen vegetables. The Green valley is an actual, real place, and the brand comes from a farming background.

Often times you open yourself up to a massive debate – online and offline. Shoppers are talking about what they’re seeing on the shelf. So we’re facilitating the story of “stewardship of the valley” and involving the customer.
We call it “Community-built brands.” The building of a sustainable brand needs to involve the consumer, let them build that story with you. It’s similar to “brand activism” – standing for something larger than the brand itself. It needs to be blossomed out by giving the marketplace something – like little “chew toys.” We create magical chew toys that the customers can either play with or not – and that feeds into the brand.

M+G: Are you guys mainly a “green” agency? Or do you push for other causes too?

CJ: We’re 100% sustainability driven. We define it in 4 streams. Cultural, social, environmental, and economic. Of those, the two hardest to define are social and cultural.

Social is things like fair trade, fair employment, social justice issues. Cultural is more about as we globalize, how do we retain the inherent magic of individual cultures. A brand can globalize while still staying true to local cultures. How can we help a culture live on for hundreds of years?

M+G: How do you determine what is a truly “good” brand? Vs. not?

CJ: We work on huge brands. WalMart, Frito-Lay … we tell our clients that it’s not a destination we’ll arrive at, this is a journey. We look for brands that are willing to do that.

(With our Outreach group) we ask, how do you activate sustainability inside pre-set cultures? WalMart really did that. The person that’s a blackberry person is the same person that has a family at home. So the approach is based on more than traditional ROI models. The clients we work with has a handle on their own goals here. Ingredient safety, in skin care, and others – what might be “safe” today might actually be causing cancer. So we’re looking to see what companies are open to these kinds of conversations – at the “C” level. We look for a visionary, a hero in the space.

M+G: How do you connect being “good/green” with sales and profits?

CJ: We don’t think they’re mutually exclusive, and they shouldn’t be. We don’t think money is bad. We connect it through the fact that every choice is relevant. Those micro-choices, the very small sustainable choices – laundry detergent or toothpaste – are the choices that either contribute or don’t. They add up to large scale sustainability to save the planet, and also to build sales. Both factors are equally important in today’s economy. Clients come to us because they get that.
Where it gets tricky is when it’s about commercializing sustainability vs. DOING sustainability. And we’re pretty hard core about sniffing that out. We know that every client isn’t doing all they should be, but we’re willing to work with them and make that connection.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of the blog-erview, with more great stuff from Cari and Saatchi S.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

All Beer is Good. This Beer is “Good.”

Can it be? We have the first official entry into the “Good” Awards. And to think, I didn’t even think it was real. Apparently it is. I got a actual, live submission from an old colleague who now runs LittleBigBrands in New York. Here’s what they done did. Take it away, Pamela …

“We recently gave Lionshead beer, a popular beverage in the Pennsylvania college scene, a complete packaging overhaul - contemporizing the brand with sustainability in mind.

Key to the new design is authentic graphics, tongue-in-cheek neck labels (e.g. "The Best Head in Town"), and four "paw holes" that replace the standard six-pack handle. The smaller labels use 40% less paper than the previous labels, and baskets and cartons are unbleached kraft stock. Cube 12-packs use 25% less material than traditional 12 pack boxes. The design allowed for the use of 47-lb. paper as opposed to the previous 51-lb. paper, and we moved the client to a printer who offered vegetable-based inks. Additionally, copy was added to the 6-pack, 12-pack, and case to encourage recycling. "Your favorite lion encourages you to keep our natural habitat clean. Lionshead beer uses recycled bottles and recycled content materials. Do your part and practice recycling in your own den."

Results to date have been outstanding - the redesign made it possible for the brewery to gain new distribution in New York and New Jersey, and the beer is flying off shelf. Lionshead has been featured in publications such as Brandweek, Package Design magazine and Packaging Digest. It will also be included in The Big Book of Green Design (fall 2009). You can see the end result at our web site”

Beer just got better.

Got a “Good” award submission? Send it my way.

Monday, April 6, 2009

“Pay It Backward” Locals Do Good

Here’s the schtick: people go to a coffee shop and buy the cup for the person behind them in line. I can’t believe there’s a standing record for this, but there is. It’s 490 people. Or at least it WAS until a bunch of Torontonians (Torontoes?) decided to set a world record – and do it for charity.

They found a willing coffee shop to donate the proceeds (smart, cheap promo for Second Cup), and they spread the word online.

They got over 600 people to “pay it backward” that morning. At about $3 a cup, I’m estimating the donated about $2,000 to charity. I bet Second Cup earned a lot of loyal customers that day.

Oh, and they set a world record. Good times.

(A link to the group that organized it is right HERE.)

Friday, April 3, 2009

Building a Belief Brand: Method

Here's a video link for ya. As far as keynote speeches at ad conferences go, this one's pretty good. Mainly because it gives you a glimpse into one of the biggest category-busting stories of the new millennium. (how you like that hype?)

I stole this guy's bio from some web site somewhere (the guys gets around to speak a lot).

Eric Ryan, Brand Architect and Co-Founder, Method
BIO: Eric makes soap. Really nice smelling soap that's non-toxic and good for the planet. Soap that's really beautiful, too, that makes people want to clean. He started Method in 2001 with his high school buddy Adam and has since built Method into a $100 million brand at retail — a brand that was ranked the 16th most innovative company in the world by Fast Company in 2008, and the 7th fastest growing company in America by Inc. Magazine in 2006. Today, Method has over 100 planet friendly cleaning products that can be found in stores across America, Canada and the UK. He's been named an eco-leader by Vanity Fair, a Food & Wine Tastemaker, an eco-revolutionary by Time Magazine, PETA's Person of the Year, and one of People Magazine's Sexiest People Alive. Okay, that last one's not true, but the others are. Eric lives in Marin with his wife Ingrid and two year-old daughter Anya, whose current favorite color is yellow.

And if you don't have time to watch the whole 20+ minute video, here are a few of my favorite quotes.

“Belief brands don’t have to spend as much in paid media. They’ll get more earned media because the story is stronger.”

“Own share of culture, not share of voice.”

“It’s no longer about building a mass market. It’s about building loyalty.”

(about their book, People Against Dirty: Detox Your Home) “By marketing a philosophy, you get people to pay $15 to read our ads.”

“We're spending less and less on trial, and more and more on loyalty.”

“I do think you can find some sort of belief in just about any brand today.”

The whole video of his speech is posted HERE.

I'm sure I'll re-visit Method's story in the future. It's a good one.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Putting the “Good” In Goodby

From Today’s AdAge …

“… another promotional stunt from Denny's. The fast-casual restaurant is asking its faithful to bring a friend who could use a free meal, positioning the freebie as a "random act of kindness" it "hopes will spread across the country." Friends loyal enough to bring a friend April 8 between 6 a.m. and 2 p.m. can score a free Grand Slamwich for their pals when they spring for a Grand Slam.”

It’s going to be be a huge deal, including TV running during the Final Four of March Madness.

It’s the best marketing for Denny’s since they put the words, “Moons Over My Hammy” on the menu.

Or maybe I just like the word “Slamwich.”

The AdAge article is HERE.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Doing “Good” In Tough Times=Smart

In 3/30 New York Times, ad columnist Stuart Elliott brings it.

Who’s doing good by society now? The list of the day includes Toys “R” Us, American Airlines, and BBDO’s David Lubars. Take it away Stu …

“Efforts in advertising to pay attention to the disabled are accelerating even as the business of many marketers is slowing.

The seeming contradiction is not surprising because in harder times many consumers begin thinking about weightier matters than the size of their homes or the features on their phones.

That shift in attitudes represents an opportunity to connect with the public on less mercenary — and more altruistic — levels.”

That, and Lubars’ crusade to stop the slang use of the word “retarded.”

The article is worth a skim, and you can see it HERE.