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)