A term was coined in the early 90’s to describe the practice of using predictable trendy references to common business practices. Called “buzzword bingo” the game was a reaction to the low value the individual words carry when generously used in speeches. A similar thing is happening now. A second cousin to “green washing”, businesses “in the business of doing good” are setting up shop left and right with names such as Global Giving, Give Something Back, Global Exchange, World of Good, BetterWorld Telecom, BetterWorld Books, One World Health, etc. Are these businesses sacrificial lambs to the movement? Socially responsible consumerism is in its very early stages of popularity. Brands like Kiva and (RED) are still largely (despite some heavy weight marketing efforts) unknown and yet consumers seem to be open, even searching for opportunities to do more with their money. To capitalize on this interest and to create “points of difference” within familiar categories, companies are using mindsets as icons to navigate the waters. In a largely new frontier this works for the time being. At least until that time we socially conscience people are working for – when the Nikes and Gaps of the world catch up to deliver a badge-worthy experience that’s as socially responsible as the next smaller company. This is not to say that bgreen (apparel), greenerprinter, Earthlust or Eco Home Improvement are bad names, have bad products or are in any way less valuable to this movement of more responsible living. But by choosing a common mindset for “differentiation”, they need to work harder to back it up with a unique brand experience. One that feels compelling and which gives an opportunity to build a relationship on. Patagonia and Timberland each carry a unique brand cache despite similar views on products created with earth-friendly practices in mind. They have each created a different essence, an experience that delivers through the product. This is how they built and kept a loyal audience within the apparel and shoe category. Global Giving and World of Good are in their teen years relative to these mature brands, however it is in these years that they need to carefully develop and leverage their assets to create a brand that has a life beyond what is very certainly the better-business-buzzwords of today.
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