Greening Your Brand in a Web 2.0 World

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)

18 Responses to Greening Your Brand in a Web 2.0 World

  1. […] Marketing Green has an interesting perspective on how social media and “Web 2.0″ technologies can help companies move their green agendas forward. I’m pretty excited to see the dots being connected between corporate responsibility and the opportunities the interwebs provide for engaging customers. 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. […]

  2. […] Greening Your Brand in a Web 2.0 World « Marketing Green A write-up of a panel Brian was on during a Sustainable Brands conference in New Orleans (tags: brian environment marketing) […]

  3. lamarguerite says:

    Great post! I just discovered your site, just by googling ‘marketing green blog’. You may enjoy visiting my blog, La Marguerite at WordPress. For the last six months, I have engaged in a research experiment in green marketing, using myself as a subject. Half meditative practice, half account planning technique, I have been recording as objectively as possible, all the thoughts, feelings, attitudes, behaviors, experiences, that are shaping my daily life as a ‘green consumer’. I would love to start a conversation with you on the topic.

    marguerite manteau-rao
    http://lamarguerite.wordpress.com

  4. Great post indeed. Both Green and 2.0 can cross-accelerate each others succes. In a historical sense, it is the logical next step.

    First, brands did communicate their unique selling proposition: the choice was big, and unique attributes were important to differentiate in the market, and influence people’s choice.
    No wonder. At that time, people buyed goods to build their material wealth.

    Then products and brands became similar, and self-expressive benefits came in. Brands started to communicate emotions, lifestyles etc…
    No wonder. At that time, people buyed things to build their own personality. So they needed to “brand” themselves with the little help of brands.

    Now since many people live in material abundance, and lifestyle- and emotion related communications is becoming a clutter, we need something else.

    People these days want to belong to something bigger and want to do good. They want to be perceived as good persons. I seriously believe the next kind of status is the contribution you represent to something bigger. Thats why marketing is morfing into this 2.0 paradigm with social networking, empowerment etc…

    No wonder. It allows people to be part of something bigger. To contribute to their believes.

  5. Tim Johnson says:

    Green is the new red white and blue. I’ve been saying that for a while and I just saw it on a magazine. Budgets for CSR are great, and Green Branding is a sound strategy now, but solid recycling programs can help companies get started in a “revenue neutral” way. For example, a surprising amount of businesses can generate revenue doing cardboard recycling ($150+ per ton currently) and
    plastics recycling as well. These programs can pay for their waste management program and provide a surplus. The big win of course is in good PR and brand equity. Green and CSR are hard to translate into shareholder value.

  6. It is so very true, “green” is becoming almost a new standard with wich to judge products and services by. If you do have a good green product and need to get it in front of like minded individuals you might want to checkout this new environmental Web 2.0 site and setup a profile to help get additional exposure for your products and services.

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