eco ramblings

a dialogue with an Eco Patriot

Archive for the ‘marketing’ Category

Following This Week’s Theme of Videos…

Posted by Luke on October 22, 2010

I hate to say it, but I think these two videos put my Industry Parody video to shame.  What is it about a bunch of white dudes trying to rap about milk and acting hard that I find so funny?

And one more…



Posted in marketing, Video | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

An Industry Parody…

Posted by Luke on October 19, 2010

With videos seeming to be the theme with my posts this week, here’s one I made that mocks a typical sales rep in my industry when they call on a customer.  It’s my debut as a director.  Enjoy!

Posted in biodegradable, imitators, marketing, Video | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

Letting Perception Get Ahead of Reality

Posted by Luke on October 6, 2010

I don’t deny that BP undoubtedly failed to take the proper precautions with their deep-water drilling activities.  But I also believe that BP’s downfall was exponentially worse due to their exceptional marketing efforts.  Beyond Petroleum. It was one of the most successful green rebranding campaigns in recent history.  A company that derived over 99% of their revenue from petroleum changed their brand to represent that they derive revenue from nothing but renewable sources.  They completely and utterly mislead consumers into thinking they were better than petroleum.

I admit it.  I was fooled.  Their advertisements of how they invested in renewable energy…  their contributions to social causes…  their green logo…  it seemed legit.  I didn’t do any research, but they were definitely saying the right things.  The problem, though, was that they let the perception of their brand get too far ahead of reality.  They were advertising nothing but green, but they were doing everything but green.

I’ve increasingly witnessed companies in my industry deploying similar tactics.  More than 99% of the products some of our competitors produce (by volume) are made from petroleum.  They are made from the oil that is derived from deep-water rigs.  And even while the nation watched oil gush into the Gulf, those companies continued green washing customers by touting their single green product line.  In fact, some even stepped up their green marketing during that time.  Most people prayed that the oil would stop gushing while these companies kept sucking oil from our earth’s core.

There’s one company in particular that has crossed the line in my mind.  I’ll refrain from stating the company’s name at this point (maybe in a future post I’ll take off my gloves).  This company recently launched a line of green products after 5 years of watching from the sidelines.  However, even while they launched these products, they still promoted their polystyrene foam products as being a great environmental choice.  They are talking out of both sides of their mouth.  They say two completely contradictory statements hoping that they’ll appeal to customers in some way, shape or form.

“We believe polystyrene foam has an excellent carbon footprint compared to PLA.  Buy foam if you want to be green.”

“We just launched a line of sustainable products made from PLA.  They meet the evolving needs of green customers and are less harmful on the environment.  Choose us when you want green”

I kid you not.  That is basically what that company is saying.  It’s shocking, really.  This reminds me of BP because they are letting perception get ahead of reality. They are promoting themselves as greener than they actually are. That won’t last forever though.

My advice to this, anonymous company:  Get 3rd party data that supports your claims.  Consumers aren’t going to allow themselves to be green washed forever.  We”ll let it happen once or twice, but we’ll get smart after that.  There’s a new wave of green coming.  And that wave involves a deeper understanding of what green actually is and making sure companies back up their claims.  Get ready for Green 2.0.  I’ll talk more about that in a future post.


Posted in brand loyalty, BS, environmental products, foodservice, greenwashing, management, marketing, Pactiv | 1 Comment »

Clorox Dubunked; Vote Daisy

Posted by Luke on August 24, 2010

A few months ago, Clorox’s lawyers sent a friendly note to Method telling them that they were infringing on Clorox’s trademark of a daisy that they use in the graphics design of their Green Works cleaning products line.  Essentially, Clorox argues that they own the rights to using a daisy when it’s used to promote green cleaners.  Method has also used the daisy for quite a while, and wasn’t intentionally trying to leverage Green Works’ brand equity… because apparently Clorox has so much of it considering they just entered the category.

This is a classic example of a major corporation being threatened by a new entrant and then throwing money at lawyers to try to drive the smaller guy out, or at least make them spend some money.  And I take that back about Method being the new entrant.  They’ve been selling green cleaning products longer than Clorox.  They created the category alongside of Seventh Generation, Biokleen, and ECOS.  They are the reason why Clorox launched their Green Works line.  Method was stealing their market share from Clorox’s conventional, toxic products.

What is silly about Clorox’s approach to me is that they are trying to promote themselves as a green company, even greener than Method.  What they fail to state in their “friendly note” or in their marketing materials is that 99% of the products they sell are made from toxic chemicals and have nothing natural about them.  So, it’s really up for consumers to decide.  Do you fall for Clorox’s marketing tricks?  Do you support a company who does nothing but green (Method), or a company who does nothing but 1% green (Clorox)?

Method took this battle to the street to encourage consumers to speak up about who owns the daisy.  They launched a viral campaign (see in which people can vote for who should own the daisy… and they aren’t saying that Method should own it.  They think Mother Nature should own the daisy.  Now that’s brilliant marketing.  Checkout the video…

Posted in brand loyalty, greenwashing, imitators, marketing | Tagged: , , , , , | 3 Comments »

The Role of “Radical Transparency” in Sustainability

Posted by Luke on August 4, 2010

I’ve written a lot about how everyone defines sustainability differently.  Jeffrey Hollender, the Chief Inspired Protagonist of Seventh Generation, addressed this topic at the World Innovation Forum in June.  “You can’t judge your own level of sustainability or responsibility, you can only be judged by others,” Hollender said.  To demonstrate this, Seventh Generation published a list on their website of everything that was bad about their products.  They felt that being completely transparent was the best way to make improvements over the long run.  They saw this transparency pay off because it caused their customers to ask Seventh Generation’s competitors for their respective lists, of which they didn’t have.

Although at Eco-Products we haven’t yet published a list of what is bad about our products, it’s probably in our near future.  We have attempted to take a similar approach to Seventh Generation in being transparent, and we are investing more than we ever have in understanding the entire environmental impact of our products from cradle to grave.  We acknowledge that we aren’t perfect.  After all, “perfect” sustainability is subjective and is a never-ending journey.  However, we are diligent about lessening our impact and being transparent with our customers along the way.  In fact, we created a new position at our company called a Sustainability Maven to continuously assess how our decisions impact the environment.  And we are investing in many other ways to better communicate our impact to our customers.  The key question that every business person has to ask, “Do customers care and will they put their money behind it?”  Based on my experience in the natural products industry, my response is an absolute “Yes.”

Posted in brand loyalty, Eco-Products, environmental products, footprint, greenwashing, marketing, sustainability | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Are Consumers Also Green Washers?

Posted by Luke on June 21, 2010

I read an article today that challenged consumers to put their money where their mouth is.  It was the first time I have heard someone call consumers more of green washers than companies. The article tries to explain how consumers in surveys claim they are buying more green products and are willing to spend more money on brands that are sustainable, but the reality is that they aren’t following through with their wallets.

On one hand, it’s an interesting argument and point to discuss.  On the other hand, I don’t buy it.  I don’t think people are green washers as individuals.  If my neighbor tells me about the energy efficient windows he just installed, I’m excited for him and also inspired by him. I don’t think for a second that he’s green washing me.  Why would he care to do that?  He has no reason to.

For companies, though, they have images to uphold.  Their products have to be better priced, higher quality, more trendy, longer lasting, more advanced, and greener than their competitors.  They have to pit themselves against other brands in a bloody-red ocean of competition and advertising noise.  They have to find some way to stand out.  And the way to stand out is often to be more green than their competitors.  For this reason, I undoubtedly think companies are more susceptible to green washing than consumers.  Consumers don’t have anyone to compete with.  Have you ever tried to out-green your next-door neighbor with the hopes of appealing more to the neighbor across the street?  No.

Believe it or not, some companies are becoming more green because they truly care about the planet.  The employees that are implementing those sustainability initiatives at those companies actually want to make a positive impact with their company’s resources.  Not to mention that having a strong sustainability program has been proven to increase employee engagement.  A large survey by Brighter Planet found that 80% of U.S. workers polled believe it’s important to work for a company that makes the environment a top priority.  What company wouldn’t want more employee engagement and greater satisfaction?

The unfortunate part in all of this, however, is that companies will continue to feel compelled to overstate their greenness.  It continues to be a deciding factor in some consumers’ buying decisions.  As such, green will continue to be a product or brand attribute that companies advertise, whether accurate or not.

Posted in brand loyalty, greenwashing, marketing, sustainability | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Tips for Avoiding Green Washing

Posted by Luke on April 15, 2010

As a follow up to my earlier post on taking action against manufacturers who mislead consumers, here are some steps businesses can take to make sure they don’t end up in similar situation that Georgia-Pacific is in by falsely advertising their products.

If you want more info, these steps came directly from an article called 8 Tips to Acing Green Guidelines.

  1. Be specific in your claims. Claims such as sustainable, recyclable, natural, and compostable should all have qualifying statements.  Check with this guide on the Federal Trade Commission’s website for clarification on how to correctly use potentially vague and subjective terms.
  2. Provide proof from third parties. Having a third party such as an independent research firm, trade association, industry institute, or other valid unbiased group helps prevent misinterpretation and misleading of consumers.
  3. Check to see that compliance certificates are up-to-date. If you claim your products are compliant with an industry standard or other governing body, make sure the compliance docs are current.
  4. Provide supporting documentation for heavy metals limits and other ingredient claims. This documentation can be from an independent testing laboratory.
  5. Be aware of your state’s renewable energy resources. If you are making a claim about your energy use and greenhouse gas emissions, check with your state to ensure you are taking into account the correct type of energy source.  This can have a big impact on your numbers.
  6. Be clear with recycling, biodegradation, and compostability claims. Make sure your products pass ASTM D6400 and D6868 tests and are certified by a third party such as the Biodegradable Products Institute.
  7. Be specific with source-reduction claims. Statements such as “uses less material” or “creates less waste” aren’t descriptive enough.  To avoid misleading consumers and getting in trouble with the FTC, make sure the statements indicate what the comparison is to – i.e. “uses 20% less material than XYZ product.”
  8. Ensure statistical differences of 15% or more. To really have a better product, the test results should indicate a statistically significant result than your comparison product.  Using 15% as that statistical difference will help keep you out of trouble.

Posted in green guidelines, greenwashing, marketing | Leave a Comment »

Taking Action Against Companies Who Mislead Consumers

Posted by Luke on April 12, 2010

As a consumer, I often take product claims for granted assuming they are true and accurate.  After all, consumers shouldn’t have to validate product claims, right?  It’s unethical for companies to lie.  And it’s largely impractical for consumers to research claims at the point of selecting products which typically occurs in store aisles.

Unfortunately, false advertising is everywhere.  That’s particularly true as companies try to market any potential green attribute a product may have, even if it’s misleading.  That’s increasingly been the case in the foodservice packaging industry.

I recently came across a prime example of a false advertisement by a Fortune 100 company.   Georgia-Pacific, a multi-billion dollar manufacturer of some very well known consumer products, is claiming that their Dixie PerfecTouch hot cups are compostable.  That couldn’t be farther from the truth.


PerfecTouch cups have a thick coating of polyethylene on the outside for insulation purposes.  The cups do not meet ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials) standards for compostability, nor are the cups approved by the Biodegradable Products Institute.

It’s sad that companies like this feel they have to misrepresent their products to appeal to consumers.  Consumers should know what we’re getting and get what we pay for.

Here are a couple ways to get companies like this to stop falsely advertising their products:

  • Submit a complaint to the Federal Trade Commission on the FTC website
  • File a complaint with the National Advertising Division of the Better Business Bureau.  This route is meant more for businesses to file complaints against other businesses and can be very effective.
  • Complain directly to the company misleading consumers
  • Blog.  If you know the facts, engage a discussion online
  • Tell retailers.  They are liable for misleading consumers as well if they don’t validate the claims of the  products they carry

Screenshot From GP's Website

Posted in compostable, foodservice, greenwashing, marketing | 2 Comments »

Taking Stretch Goals Too Far

Posted by Luke on April 8, 2010

I consider myself goal oriented, and I definitely like to have a stretch goal in place.  As a child, my stretch goal was to play in the NBA.  I didn’t quite achieve that one – white men can’t jump, as the movie goes. 

Recently, I’ve been seeing an abundance of press releases by companies publicly declaring sustainability goals, often times stretch goals.  On one hand, I think that’s great.  It will create accountability if the public is watching.  On the other hand, these announcements are often used as branding stints.

I’m perplexed by the latest sustainability goal a major company just announced.  See if you can guess which one I’m referring to.

  • Starbucks’ goal to make all of their cups either reusable or recyclable by 2012
  • Frito Lay shooting to be zero landfill by 2020
  • Sony Corp. striving for a zero environmental footprint by 2050

The first two are definitely big goals, but the timeframe to achieve them are in the relatively near future which makes them feel like real, attainable goals.  The last one – Sony striving for zero environmental footprint by 2050?!  Really?  2050?  Now, that’s out there.  I hope I’m alive in 40 years.  I like the ambition to have zero environmental impact; it just seems odd to me that a company would make such a big deal publicly about a goal for 2050.  We don’t know what the world will be like in 40 years.  The internet didn’t become a part of everyday life until 15 years ago, less for most people. 

I’m going to start taking wagers.  Can Sony do it?  Will Sony even be around in 40 years?  If they are around, will the management team still want to pursue it? 

Thinking optimistically, I think they can do it.  I wouldn’t have the same level of confidence in many other companies who set this goal, but Sony is pretty world-class.  I just hope the media, their shareholders, and consumers hold them accountable since they are making such a big deal out of it.   Maybe this will convince the entire electronics industry to follow suit.

Posted in footprint, greenwashing, marketing, zero waste | Leave a Comment »

“Green” Shopping Continues to Thrive

Posted by Luke on April 3, 2010

I remember 5 or so years ago when people told me that “this green thing” was just a trend that won’t last.  After battling a brutal recession and seeing oil drop from $145 to $36 per barrel in a few short months (oil seems to be a temperature gauge for a lot of peoples’ greenness), green shopping continues to thrive.

A new report just released by Mintel indicated that 35% of U.S. consumers would pay more for environmentally-friendly products.  Another study by Green Seal indicated that 4 out of 5 people are still buying green products and services which sometimes cost more.  A third study, although a year old at this point, indicated that “green features – that is, that a product is recyclable and energy efficient – are more important than the brand name being considered.”

Let me re-type that to make sure we all see it… “green features are more important than the brand name being considered.”  Wow, that is a big deal.  The proof is in the pudding.  Green shoppers are loyal to their values and would rather an environmental feature over a brand name product.  As a marketer, I like those loyal green customers.

My verdict:  “Green” is here to stay.

Posted in marketing, recycled products, trends | Leave a Comment »

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