Tag Archives: brand

the carbon authority: part one

carbon-neutralIn a swath of green fury, there is a whole new market emerging which most consumers have heard of but for the most part, have no clue if it will ever become relevant to their daily lives.   To some degree none of us know what role our march toward a carbon neutral economy will play in our not-too-distant future yet there are signals locally and globally that the carbon market may ultimately play a significant role in our daily choices.  The question is  – who will guide us in the adoption of practices that will truly help us understand this market.

To a certain degree, it is probably too early to ask this question.  The early days of the mobile phone industry were governed by industry wide regulation, distribution and demand.  Demand drove consumers to purchase despite mass confusion over cost protocol and brand authorities didn’t emerge until the market had stabilized and penetrated the most sought after consumer – the teen.  It took us over a decade to begin to feel like we understood how to evaluate “Rollover minutes” against “Nights and Weekends Free” against “myFaves” (although one could argue we still don’t know why we’re locked into two year contracts).

So, it’s likely that we are ten even twenty years before we truly begin to understand what the outcomes of all the debate in Washington and abroad is about as it relates to understanding our role in neutralizing the carbon in our atmosphere.  This is an operational challenge that will be driven by regulation not demand.   Yet there seems to be market activity that signals this evasive concept-commodity could and actually is being productized at a mass consumer level.

Many airlines now offer individuals the opportunity to purchase carbon offsets at the point of their ticket purchase and online calculators such as Terrapass provide individuals and businesses the opportunity to purchase carbon credits to offset their output.  Termed “offsets” these credits are the product of a  financial mechanism created to regulate carbon output and including organizations naturally protecting sequestered carbon.  Most of us have begun to hear the term “offset” but will readily admit we have no idea what it really means, let alone starting to dig deeper to know what “standard” the carbon has been verified against to determine its true value.

The interesting question is,  who will emerge to be the (brand) authority in this new market?  What business and in what tier of the consumer eco-system will emerge to establish credibility and drive the standard to which we will make our assessments? And what industry can we look to previously that might shed some light on where this new market might be going?

partnering for our urban good

nyc-transportation-alternativesPSFK reported last week on NYC’s Transportation Alternatives program Nine for ’09.   NYCTA been around since 1973 and they’ve done some tremendous advocacy work in the areas of bicycling , walking and taking public transportation to reclaim New York’s streets from the automobile. They have already announced their September NYC Century Bike Tour and clearly they’ve got some talented design folks on their side.

The question I have is why haven’t they enlisted corporate support? Nike Considered Products, Trek bicycles, Timbukt2 bags would be perfect “urban” supporters –  to name a very few. All of these could develop some pretty cool high-profile retail promotional programs around what are already some really well-thought out events.

With a population’s increasing attention on what’s happening locally, for the city by the city, companies would do well to give-back in a way that  parallels what our overstretched and under-funded gov’t is attempting to do.    Tapping existing, smartly run and well-marketed programs is just the way to do that.

leveraging MLK day

target_oprah_static_184x901Very rarely do big brands get it right when inserting themselves into historic moments in time.  The SuperBowl ads have become an event within an event but we’re ok with that because the entire event is about pure unadulterated exploitation for entertainment.    The  Olympics have sold their soul and we’ve come to accept it.   Brands who pay the global big bucks are simply spending our money to be able to get our money.   We all know its part of the game.

But it takes the right kind of brand to  dare touch a nation that is in a delicate stage of heightened optimism – driven mostly from an eight year period of feeling duped – and actually do it with class and inspiration.  By building on its authentic efforts already commited to the communities it serves, Target has managed to do just that on  MLK day.    By tying into the historic inauguration of our first black President, his proclamation towards a day of community service, and by leveraging Oprah’s star-studded homage to this two day time, Target has brilliantly connected to their audience and promoted the message of community service that lives within what this day is all about.  To say that their vision is altruistic would be foolish.  But if all brands could use their name to drive home messages of helping others – just imagine.  “I have a dream”

best storytelling in a 2 minute video.

If only there were an Oscars category to represent the communication efforts of social change.    This video might win hands-down this year.  Not only is it simple and engaging but the audience will not forget The Girl Effect‘s logo.   The high impact of this video is the culmination of extraordinary design, fantastic editing, a beautiful score  and a well-crafted screenplay.  And all underscore the impact of the project’s identity.  I guarantee you will remember it.   Now, as with all things amazing, there are tons of others who have deconstructed the bejeezus out of it.  Two of my favorites were Made to Stick’s and Nathaniel Whittemore’s, though I love that google.org’s blog picked it up too.  I look forward to more amazing work by ad agencies “for benefit”.

beyond BetterWorld bingo

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.