Greener SimCity Virtual World as Channel to Influence Real World Behaviors

October 17, 2007

Electronic Arts (EA)’s SimCity, the popular simulation game that challenges users to build and run a metropolis, is set to release its latest version in mid-November – SimCity Societies – and is generating a lot of buzz in the process.  

simcity.gif

One way that sets Societies apart from previous versions is its new functionality that requires users to take economic and environmental factors into consideration when making energy production decisions.  (Other simulation games that require users to make trade-offs between energy and environmental concerns include Energyville, recently launched by Chevron and The Economist Group; ElectroCity, sponsored by Genesis Energy in New Zealand; and My Abode, sponsored by the UK’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.)

While this novel functionality is generating significant buzz in the market, the real learnings for green marketers may be how EA and energy giant BP are leveraging the game itself as a marketing channel to influence its audience.  In doing so, EA and BP will have impact across the purchase funnel:

Awareness: As a key sponsor of Societies, BP will place its logo on renewable energy sources throughout the game.  BP is likely betting that branding renewable energy in this virtual world will have a positive impact on brand awareness, favorability and purchase intent in the real world.

Cleverly, while BP plans to place its logo on (not so eco-friendly) gasoline stations within the game, it is purposefully not associating its brand with dirtier energy sources that are used to generate electricity like coal (though this positioning may be somewhat inconsistent with its real-world energy mix).

Consideration: The game itself provides a high impact channel to educate consumers about real-life trade offs that are increasingly required today.  

In this simulation game users make decisions regarding how to meet the growing energy needs as well as how to deal with their consequences over time.  For example, users that choose to fuel industrial growth with low cost, but high polluting energy sources may find themselves facing droughts, heat waves and other weather-related consequences of global warming.  

Ultimately, companies like BP will benefit from such presence if consideration for renewable energy in the virtual world translates into the real-life consideration as a result. 

Purchase: Perhaps the most powerful use of this gaming channel has yet to be explored, that is, driving transactions.  While enabling functionality is not planned for this version, the potential exists to facilitate purchases longer term. 

In a gaming environment there are several ways in which real-world transactions could take place.  One way could be to allow users to sign up for or indicate interest in renewable energy directly through the gaming environment or an associated micro site. 

Moreover, it may even be possible to exchange Simoleans, or SimCity virtual currency, to purchase renewable energy in the real world over time.  This would be similar to the way virtual Linden dollars can be exchanged for real dollars in the popular virtual world of Second Life.

So, marketers should take note. Gaming is an emerging channel that may be used to reach new audiences and influence behaviors across the purchase funnel.  The virtual world of SimCity Societies requires users to make economic and environmental trade-offs similar to those that we increasingly confront today.    For marketers like BP, such an immersive environment offers the chance not only to influence awareness and consideration in a virtual world, but to shape behaviors that impact the bottom line in the real one.


Green Marketing as a Vehicle for Consumer Engagement

October 12, 2007

Today, smart marketers are focused not only on whether consumers view their message, but to what extent they engage with it.  One definition of engagement is as a measure of consumer involvement with a marketing vehicle.  As defined, it implies that engagement should be considered as both a marketing tactic and a metric that can be measured and optimized. 

The green space is ripe for engagement in large part because consumers are interested in green not just as a product category but as a social cause.  As a result, consumers are not only highly open to invitations to engage, but eager to do so when given the opportunity.   Many, in fact, actively seek outlets for their passion; marketers only need to activate them by providing the opportunity. 

Several marketers have already tapped into this passion by creating points of engagement that go well beyond your average marketing communication. 

One such example is CNN’s Impact your World.  CNN is one of the premier news brands today.  Traditionally, news organizations like CNN have provided ways to consume and subsequently react to news by providing the opportunity to comment on news stories – a form of engagement in of itself.  

Yet, CNN Impact takes engagement to the next level by providing consumers with a way to act on their interests in or passion for particular news events – green or otherwise.  One great example is the recent story of the small Iraqi child that suffered severe burns.  CNN Impact enabled its viewers not only to read articles about the child but to take action by making donations to cover his medical bills.   engagement-tactics_3.gif 

In the green space, CNN Impact provides the opportunity for viewers to take action through its “Planet in Peril” section.  CNN provides links to relevant content as well as to environmental non-profits where viewers can make a donation.  CNN facilitates donations by partnering with Charity Navigator to provide information on non-profits to enable users to make more informed decisions. 

 engagement-tactics_2.gif

Another great vehicle for driving engagement was the recent Members Project by American Express.  In this project, American Express designated significant funds to be donated to a cause of its cardmember’s choosing.   A platform was created for cardmembers to nominate and vote on different projects over a three month period. 

In the end, American Express cardmembers chose to fund a UNICEF project to bring clean drinking water to children (a noble project that is at the intersection of green and human health).  American Express provided the platform for the project; cardmembers engaged with each other through this platform to determine the project’s outcome. 

 engagement-tactics.gif

Smart green marketers should take advantage of green as both a product and a social cause by creating deeper opportunities for engagement with their consumers.  Companies can facilitate engagement in multiple ways: by enabling consumers to act on their interests (eg, by connecting them with volunteer opportunities, enabling donations as in CNN Impact) or interact with peers (eg, through community or discussion boards), by encouraging content creation and distribution, and by facilitating product ideation (eg, through collaborative environments) or direct feedback to a company.   

Moreover, marketers may motivate consumer engagement by wrapping a product with an affinity-based experience (eg, Members Project) or by providing access to an event or experience that has perceived value or is deemed exclusive. 

Given the passion that some consumers have for the category, marketers may be surprised by the response and the impact that such marketing vehicles may have on the bottom line.  

(Disclosure: American Express is a client of Digitas)


Greening Your Brand in a Web 2.0 World

October 3, 2007

Last Friday, I have the pleasure of moderating a panel at the Sustainable Brands conference in New Orleans.  Panel participants included: 

  • Susan Space, Director, Brands & Advertising, at Sun Microsystems
  • Brian Reich, Director of New Media at Cone, a brand and cause marketing agency, and
  • Janet Eden-Harris, CEO of Umbria, a marketing intelligence company.  

I have included my opening remarks below (and will follow up with the transcript of the discussion when it becomes available):

Web 2.0 enable consumers to participate, share and collaborate online like never before.  And whether you are a B2B or B2C marketer, you probably have noticed that consumers are embracing these technologies not only to participate but to control and dictate when, where and how they want to be communicated to. 

Today, consumers view six times the number of ads that they did 20 years ago. And not surprisingly, customers feel inundated and are tuning them out.  (Ad Age, February 4, 2006) In fact, consumers are finding ways to opt out of viewing our advertising altogether by using Pop-up blockers, spam filters, and DVRs and by signing up for Do Not Call Lists and even Do Not Mail Lists. 

At the same time, they are opting in to view content of their choosing by using blog readers like Technorati, customzied news feeds like NewsVine or even signing up for emails with green lifestyle tips from sites like the Daily Green. 

Today, more and more consumers are active contributors online, and in the process, blurring the distinctions between advertising and content and between consumer and publisher.  In this new world, ads are no longer the stuff that fills the gaps between the content.  Content, in effect, is advertising.  And, advertising is increasingly distributed as content.   With nearly 50% of consumers generating – or perhaps I should say publishing – content online, this shift has already taken hold.  (Pew Research) 

Moreover, distrust of product companies will only accelerate this trend, as consumers increasingly turn to their peers for seemingly unbiased opinions and information. 

And, it is in this environment that most marketers focus on the loss of control over brand messaging and identify, rather than the opportunity.  

How then do marketers – and particularly green marketers – take advantage of this new Web 2.0 order?   

We need to first recognize that the rules of engagement have changed; many traditional assumptions regarding marketing, media and branding no longer hold true.  Yet, as marketers, our response should not be to shy away from this change, but to encourage and embrace it through new marketing approaches. 

And, as it turns out, the green category is defined by specific consumer, product and brand characteristics that can take full advantage of Web 2.0 capabilities.

First, green is an emerging product category.   Consumers are not very familiar with the products available today.  Few standards exist.  And, new products and technology solutions are coming to market each day. 

As such, marketers have the opportunity to leverage Web 2.0 capabilities to help consumers to navigate the category, facilitate consumer education and drive product development through collaborative environments and communities 

Second, many consumers are not fully committed to being green yet.  Attitudes are evolving.  Purchase behavior is inconsistent.  And, perceptions about corporate brands are still be formed. 

Marketers have the opportunity to influence this evolution through transparent participation in the online dialogue, encouragement of WOM marketing and facilitation of consumer engagement online.  

As with consumers, the greening of a company and a brand should be considered a journey.  One challenge for green marketers then is to keep the journey of your own brand one step ahead that of your customers. 

Third, it is important to remember that for some, green describes not only a product attribute but a social cause.  All marketers should take advantage of this by activating those consumers most passionate about the category.   

The challenge for marketers then is to act in a way that is perceived as genuine and not simply “greenwashing”.  

And, it is in this context and this environment that we welcome our panelists and begin our discussion.  

(Special thanks to Carl Fremont, EVP and Global Head of Media at Digitas for his contributions)


Testing Green Promotional Benefits to Drive Acquisition

September 16, 2007

Promotional benefits are a popular marketing tactic used across almost every industry to acquire new customers.   Marketers like offering such benefits as they can greatly increase acquisition rates or drive repeat purchases over time.  

It should come as no surprise, therefore, that the use of promotional benefits has been extended to the green space.  Using “green” promotional benefits – that is, incentives that have environmental benefit – to drive acquisition, however, is unchartered territory as there are few benchmarks to validate their use or their effectiveness.

Nonetheless, such green benefits are increasingly being offered across a variety of product categories.  Here are just a few examples:

Autos: Volkswagen of America announced its “Carbon Neutral Project”, a campaign that offers to offset the carbon emissions for one year.  This promotional benefit is being offered on a trial basis and expires on January 2, 2008.

Banking: Several banks offer discounts on auto and home-equity loans that pay for environmentally-friendly goods. One of the most generous is the Carolina Postal Credit Union, which serves US Postal Employees and Federal Employees in North Carolina, which offers a 1% discount on auto loans when purchasing a hybrid.

Credit cards: Today, it is common for credit card companies to offer one-time bonus miles for signing up for an airline affinity card.  The latest entrant into the green card market, Metabank, puts a different spin on this promotional benefit: bonus carbon credits.  Every new applicant receives the equivalent of 10,000 lbs of CO2 offsets – the average annual CO2 emission of a car in the US – when they sign up for their green card.

Real Estate: NY-based Moss Real Estate Group offers both buyers and sellers in a completed transaction offsets for their carbon emissions for one year.

Telecommunications:  San Francisco-based wireless carrier Working Assets announced that it offers new subscriber a “carbon neutral phone” (a $55 value) to offset average CO2 emissions caused by phone use over the next year.

Green or not, promotional benefits come with clear economic trade-offs.  First, benefits can be very expensive, as not only do they reduce net revenue and increase costs, but they are likely extended to many prospects that would have converted anyway.

Second, promotional benefits tend to attract incremental customers with “lower repurchase rates and smaller lifetime values” according to Michael Lewis, Assistant Professor of Marketing at the University of Florida. 

In fact, his study of consumer-level data from the newspaper and online grocery industries offers sobering results: “a 35% acquisition discount results in customers with about one-half the long-term value of non-promotionally acquired customers.”  (“Customer Acquisition Promotions and Customer Asset Value”, Journal of Marketing Research, May 2006).  As such, while benefits attract new customers, they may not necessarily generate economic value in doing so.

As the impact of green promotional benefits remains uncertain at this time, Marketing Green recommends a cautious approach for marketers: test the efficiency and effectiveness of this type of program with a small, targeted audience before scaling more broadly.   

Such in-market tests should seek to answer five key questions that can impact program design, target segments and types of offers:

  • What value do consumers place on green benefits, either perceived or actual?  How does this value differ by target segment and product category?
  • Who should be the recipient of this benefit – the individual consumer or society (eg, via a donation to a non-profit organization, for example)? 
  • Do green benefits expand the market or simply reward those that would already purchase a product or service?
  • Do green benefits impact average customer lifetime value positively or negatively over time?
  • Do green benefits generate brand value by positioning the company as more socially responsible?

Moreover, Marketing Green recommends that marketers should assess whether consumers understand these green promotional benefits (eg, what do carbon credits mean?) as well as their equivalent economic value (eg, how much is it worth?).  Without broad acceptance of these promotional benefits by consumers, marketers may find that they also have to invest in consumer education if they want to target anyone today but the most committed green consumers.


China and Canada: Olympic Host Nations with Different Green National Brands

September 4, 2007

Like products, companies and celebrities, nations have brands, and these brands have attributes that describe them and value that is associated with them.  Hosting the Olympic Games provides a unique opportunity for a country to both influence global perceptions about their national brand and enhance their nation’s brand value by showcasing itself before the entire world. 

With the next summer and winter games set to take place in Beijing, China (2008) and Vancouver, Canada (2010), respectively, it is hard not to make the comparison between these national brands, and especially, in terms of how each brand relates to the environment.  Any comparison, however, requires a caveat as these nations differ greatly in terms of their histories, population sizes and stages of economic development.  Nonetheless, a comparison is justified based on how these national brands are perceived globally today, as well as how these nations are working to enhance their brand images – positive or negative – going forward. 

Simon Anholt’s National Brands Index (NBI) is one way to evaluate national brands based on “how a country is seen by others” today.  NBI compiles brand attributes “across six dimensions of national assets, characteristics, and competence [including] exports, people, governance, tourism, culture and heritage and immigration and investment”.   

While the environment is considered explicitly as part of the governance category (which “considers people’s perceptions of the government’s behaviour towards the global environment”), the environment is, in fact, implicit in other category questions as well.  For example, perceptions about air quality and water-borne pollution directly affect someone’s likelihood to visit (tourism category) or live and work in a country (immigration and investment). 

In fact, it could be argued that the environment may be a bellwether indicator of how the global community perceives national brands.  An NBI report states that “even if nations themselves don’t change, people’s values can and do, affecting the way they perceive nations”.   For example, “growing ‘green’ consciousness among some sections of the world’s population, benefiting those nations…that have a good reputation for environmental responsibility”, and perhaps detract from others that are less responsible.  

In NBI’s recent survey of 38 nations, Canada is ranked 4th (behind the UK, Germany and France) while China is ranked 23rd. (The US is ranked 10th). 

It is not only this difference in ranking that is significant, but that China’s brand image is losing ground.  In fact, its brand score had the highest overall decline (-4%) of any ranked nation over the last year an a half.  Moreover, significant areas of decline include brand perceptions regarding China as a place to “live and work” (-11.4%) and to visit (-13%) – all issues that may be relate to perceptions about the environment.   (Anholt Nation Brands Index Special Report Q2 2007). 

Such brand perceptions also translates into differential national brand values.  Brand Finance estimates national Brand Values based on a 5-year forecast for gross domestic product (GDP) and incorporates “brand ratings for each nation [including] seven economic performance measures (Source: IMD), eight infrastructure and efficiency measures (Source: IMD) and six consumer perception measures (Source: NBI).” 

The chart below displays Brand Values for the top ranked nations by GDP.  Adding GDP – a measure of the output from all domestic economic activities associated with a nation – helps put Brand Value into context.

gdp-vs-brand-value_v2.gif

Brand Value from Anholt Nation Brands Index Special Report Q1 2007; GDP (nominal) from World Bank, 2006 as cited in Wikipedia   

Not surprisingly, for most nations, Brand Value is correlated with GDP, as Brand Finance’s estimate of Brand Value begins with a five-year GDP forecast.  In fact, Brand Value is measured as a multiple of GDP for 8 of the top 9 countries in terms of GDP – meaning that brand value is worth considerably more than the annual output from each nation.  (Brazil’s Brand Value was not available from the referenced Index as it is not ranked among the top 10).  In noticeable contrast, China – while the only developing nation among the top 9 nations – is the only country in which its Brand Value is a fraction of its GDP. 

All this many not be surprising, however, as China’s reputation has suffered in recent years: in its race to industrialize it has turned a blind eye from the suffering in Darfur as it contracts for oil from the Sudanese, manufactured low cost toys and pet food tainted with poisons, and spoiled much of its environment in the process.  In fact, environmental degradation is widespread and on a scale perhaps never seen before.  A recent report co-authored by the World Bank and the Government of China summaries this impact in human health and GDP:

     “The combined health and non-health cost of outdoor air and water pollution for China’s economy comes to around $US100 billion a year (or about 5.8% of the country’s GDP) [and 750,000 premature deaths annually according to the New York Times] 

     Air pollution, especially in large cities, is leading to higher incidences of lung diseases, including cancer, respiratory system problems and therefore higher levels of work and school absenteeism 

     Water pollution is also causing growing levels of cancer and diarrhea particularly in children under 5

     Water pollution is further exacerbating China’s severe water scarcity problems, bringing the overall cost of water scarcity to about 1% of GDP”  (World Bank and Government of China, “Cost of Pollution in China – Economic Estimates of Physical Damages”, 2007) 

The 2008 Olympic Games only serve to highlight this environmental degradation as air pollution in Beijing has raised concerns from global athletes who threaten to stay away if the skies do not clear during the event.  The Chinese say the air will be clear during the Olympics but initial tests that banned 1MM cars from the road had mixed results. 

Either way, the damage may already have been done to the Chinese brand in the short term.  Air quality – good or poor – will certainly be the talk of the town during the summer games and will inevitably shed more light on China’s growing environmental problem.   

But, for the Chinese and the environment, perhaps some good will come of this over time.   There is already talk of environmental reform and greater regulatory controls within the central government.  Chinese leaders, however, still need to find incentives for provincial leaders to enact them.  Moreover, if the Chinese are successful in cleaning up the air during the games, Beijing residents will certainly talk about how ‘unnaturally’ clean the air is – perhaps creating grassroots support to have better air quality after the closing ceremonies. 

The story in Vancouver – and across the rest Canada – is quite different.  Like the rest of the G8 nations, Canada did not industrialize without a price – contaminated sites, clear cut forests and mines that drain acid to the surrounding lands and waters and continue to plague the environment and compromise human health.  Moreover, Canada has its own Love Canal, a symbol of all what is wrong with unregulated industrialization and the site of human suffering that followed.        

But, it is difficult to compare the sheer scale of the problem that China now confronts.  In fact, most of Canada escaped industrialization relatively unscathed.  Many, including Paul Lavoie, Chairman and Chief Creative Officer of Taxi, a premier Canadian advertising firm, think that Canadians should now use their relative greenness to their advantage. 

In a keynote address at the Canada 2020 conference last year, Lavoie argued that Canadians had an “opportunity to manage [its] natural resources to insure economic, environmental and social success.  He continued, “In this period of high demand, we have a window of opportunity to develop a national natural resources strategy aimed at maximizing economic benefits while ensuring the long-term sustainability of our resources and environment.”     

To do so, Lavoie proposed that Canada should create a new brand for the nation and Canadian businesses.  This brand – Outside thinkers – would be demonstrated by shifting from natural resource extraction to idea generation in order to capture more economic and brand value going forward.

outside-thinkers.gif

Lavoie spoke, “It’s about the relationship between nature and innovation.  Nature has been our greatest challenge, and our greatest inspiration. Its geography, climate and force have made us think outside convention to survive.”    

“Let’s look outside and see nature as our inspiration to innovate: Many Canadian products and services could be marketed with more success if they rallied around the common brand values and standards of a uniquely Canadian concept.”  

“ ‘Outside thinkers’ [offers] a clear and shared personality and promise of innovative design, quality workmanship and an orientation to sustainability across all categories. A strong central message repeated consistently will build a clear perception and expectation in the minds of consumers, trade partners and governments. This is the hallmark of a great brand.” 

Lavoie supports this brand with three pillars that represented a shift in Canadian thinking: 

A Shift from a “land of stuff” to a “land of ideas”.  Lavoie argued: “By treating our natural resources like commodities, we are selling them short when we should be selling them at a premium and getting the recognition for it.” 

A shift to innovation.  Lavoie elaborated that the Anholt NBI identified distinct attributes of Canadians: “Trustworthy, honest, gentle moral conscience, friendly, [and] tolerant.   

His response: “I don’t think this image is a complete representation of all Canadians, especially the younger, more confident, ambitious generation, many who are in this room who want to be actively involved and be a little more than happy yet passive bystanders. I believe there are two potential characteristics that are missing. I would like to set as an objective of this exercise to foster and encourage the addition of: confidence and innovation.  With confidence you can do anything.  With innovation you do the right thing!” 

A shift to sustainable solutions.  Lavoie said that Canadians should shift to more value added services (and reduce the export of raw materials) while providing what the world wants: sustainable products and services.   

So, globally, perceptions toward national brands – specifically China and Canada – vary substantially today.  Perceptions about the environment are an important part of this difference.  While the Olympics offer the opportunity to shape these perceptions in a positive way, it is unclear whether China will be able to do so given the systemic pollution that permeates life across much of China – including Beijing, the Olympic host city.   

In contrast, the Canadian national brand will likely benefit from Vancouver hosting the Olympics given that brand perceptions are already very favorable today and the relative pristine physical environment of British Columbia will only reinforce this perception when visitors arrive for the games.  Moreover, as Paul Lavoie suggests, Canada may have the opportunity to build on this perception by creating a national brand synonymous with sustainability.  Perhaps this is Canada’s ticket for overtaking the UK, Germany and France as the top national brand globally.


Aggregating Green Audiences

August 31, 2007

Online advertisers are increasingly interested in targeting audiences with green affinities and publishers are aggregating traffic in order to provide compelling ways to do so. 

August has seen a fury of acquisitions as publishers move to aggregate existing green traffic and extend their reach to other green sub-segments.  Earlier this month Gaiam  purchased both Lime, an eco site and green ad network, and Zaadz, a green social networking site.  And less than two weeks ago, Cleantech purchased InsideGreentech.com.  All of this consolidation activity follows Discovery’s acquisition of Treehugger, the leading green blogging site, at the beginning of the month.

Alternatively, online publishers are banding together to create green ad networks that provide media planners with significant reach by bundling ad sales across multiple sites and through a single point of contact.  As such, it came as little surprise this week when Adify announced the launch of its latest vertical platform supporting green ad networks.  Today, this platform supports four green ad networks including Green Ad Planet, Washington Post’s environmental blogroll, Matter Network and SustainLane Green Ad Network.   

While today no green ad network ranks among comScore’s Top 50, with 4MM unique monthly visitors, the combined traffic of the green networks supported by Adify’s platform makes it a formidable player in the space.   

Today, there are at least nine individual green ad networks available to advertisers.  Here is Marketing Green’s first Green Ad Network Ranking: 

Network

Target Audience Monthly Unique Visitors
1. Green Ad Planet LOHAS 3MM+2  
Sites: LiveScience (1.4MM), Daves Garden (1MM), Hybrid Cars (0.1MM), Blohas, Cathy’s Crawly Composters, Cleantech Blog, , Eco Sherpa, EcoStreet, Green Harmony Tours, Green Living Tips, Green Maven, GreenBin, Greenedia, Greenona, , Inveslogic, KindWeb, Naturalpath, One Shade Greener, Organic Day, Our Hudson Valley Network, RiverWired, Tea Body’s, TenBees, TerraPass, Throwplace, Zaadz
2. Lime1 Broad 2.3MM2 
Sites: Lime (1.8MM), Mongabay (0.3MM), EcoGeek, EcoSherpa, The Beauty Brains, Savvy Vegetarian, Eco-Chick
3. GreenAds Broad 2MM2
Sites: TreeHugger (1MM+), DrWeil (0.4MM), Grist Magazine (0.2MM), eMagazine (0.1MM), MetaEfficient
4. Blogads Broad <2MM2
Sites: Treehugger (1MM+), The Oil Drum (0.1MM), Inhabitat (0.1MM), EcoGeek, Life After the Oil Crash, PlanetSave, MetaEfficient, Ecorazzi, Groovy Green Blog, You Grow Girl, Garden Stew, Lighter Footstep, GetOutdoors Outdoor Blog, Jetson Green, GardenRant, Great Green Goods, About My Planet, The Good Human, Mighty Foods, green LA girl, Really Natural, Triple Pundit, Groovy Green Magazine, The Evangelist Ecologist, Green Options
GreenAdWorks LOHAS 1MM+2
Sites: Mongabay (0.3MM), Inhabitat (0.1MM), Ecorazzi (0.1MM), Earth Easy (0.1MM), Savvy Vegetarian, The Good Human, Terrapass, Alternative Consumer, Organix Authority, Celsias, Natural Path, Groovy Green, Dr. Briffa, The Healing Mind, The Sunshine Chronicles, Econscious
Washington Post’s Environmental Blogroll Broad 3
Sites: Great Green Goods, Nature Geezer
Matter Network Investment professionals 3
Sites: Matter Network, TerraPass
SustainLane Green Ad Network LOHAS 3, 4
Sites: Sustainlane.com, Sustainlane.us, The Unsustainables
NooTouch (UK) N/A 3
Sites: Ecologist Online, Hippy Shopper, New Consumer

1 Does not include other Gaia community umbrella sites including Gaiam, Conscious Enlightenment and Zaadz

2 Rough estimates based on sum of unique site traffic (from Compete) for key sites in network, assuming no more that 10% overlap of unique visitors across each site

3 Limited traffic or limited visibility into network sites to estimate

4 Does not include 24 affiliate sites with a combined reach of 35MM monthly ad impressions based on Sustainlane data

NOTE: Marketing Green contacted each network as part of the research for this article.  Marketing Green plans to update this posting as more ad networks respond to the inquiries over time.


Visualizing Green

August 16, 2007

Images are powerful marketing tools. For marketers, they provide powerful stimuli that can augment messaging and influence consumer behavior and beliefs.  Here are a few suggestions for marketers using visual images in the green space: 

Chose the right image.  Images can affect change by amplify existing or associating new attributes with a brand or marketing messages.  In the green category specifically, imagery has the potential to evoke strong emotional responses from individuals with a vested interest in or passion for the category. 

Today, consumers have preconceived notions about what colors and images are aligned with green.  Research prepared through a partnership between the Yankelovich Group and Getty Images (“Going Green”, Yankelovich Group webinar, June 27, 2007) yielded powerful insights regarding green imagery: consumers believe that the color “forest” green and images of actual forests, (followed by images of water including oceans, rivers and streams), are the most representative of the environment (based on a palate of green color and image stimuli that consumers were exposed to during research). As such, marketers should carefully consider color palate and image selection in order to align with existing consumer perceptions associated with the environment.  (Getty hosts a gallery of powerful green images on its site). 

Track how visual language is evolving.  How consumers interpret and understand “visual language” is continually evolving.  Understanding this evolution can provide marketers with valuable insights to drive successful campaigns.  Here is one example: As part of its research with Yankelovich, Getty identified “key concepts that will influence the future of visual language” in green.  The key concepts include the following:

  1. The Future 
  2. Goodness
  3. Simplicity
  4. Legacy
  5. Inheritance
  6. Purity
  7. Care
  8. Trust
  9. Sustainability
  10. Fresh & Clean

For marketers, such concepts provide relevant ways to connect consumers with green and should be considered when crafting a marketing campaign.

Moreover, green marketers should take note of emerging patterns across these concepts.  For example, four concepts – “the future”, “legacy”, “inheritance” and “sustainability” relate to what we leave for our children.   Additionally, words like “goodness”, “purity” and “fresh and clean” may perhaps evoke a sense of natural goodness.  (“Going Green,” June 27, 2007).

Pick images that allude to ideas beyond the stated message.  Unlike the written word, images “elude empirical verification”.  This enables marketers to leverage the suggestive potential of an image without being held accountable to the degree that you would be if making written or verbal “product claims or political promises”. (Schroeder, Jonathan, “Introduction to the Special Issue on Aesthetics, Images and Vision”, Marketing Theory, 2006; 6; 5)

Let visual imagery influence new product development and design.  Today, marketers typically choose images as part of the overall strategic branding or marketing campaign tactics.  However, given the strong association by consumers of certain images with green, marketers (and product managers) may want to turn this approach on its head.  Instead, companies should consider perhaps developing products that more closely “fit the image” of green already held by consumers, rather than the other way around.  To do so, product designers and green marketers should leverage this imagery to inspire new designs and shape marketing initiatives. (Schroeder, 2006).


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