Green Branding and Marketing: Who’s Out Front?


by Jerry Stifelman, The Change on  08.10.07
Business & Politics

This is a guest post at TreeHugger by Jerry Stifelman from The Change.  Link to the original post here.

OK, to conclude our posts about good-for-the-world branding, we’re
going to call out the brands that best exemplify the qualities we
discussed. Think of it as the Oscars of green branding, only no
acceptance speeches or silly statues. (To avoid anything that smells of
self-promotion, we’re not including any brands that our company works

haven’t read the other posts in this series — by relevance, we mean
finding points of intersection between sustainability and values that
are more deeply entrenched in our culture ( you know, like aligning
your branding with people’s existing values, rather than trying to make
them care about something new). Ben & Jerry’s
does this beautifully. People like brands that are fun, happy, true to
themselves and avoid pretense, and this is what Ben & Jerry’s
manages to be so well. They took a stand on global warming when it was
more politically contentious, and they did it brilliantly. Instead of
lecturing people or scaring them, they came out with an initiative
centered on an ice cream flavor, One Sweet Whirled, and a song by the
Dave Matthews Band (staying true to Cherry Garcia-jam band association
heritage). And they did this 4 years before Al Gore broke out his
Inconvenient Truth. They have since entrenched their leadership
position by sponsoring Ben and Jerry’s Climate Change College, and by giving away free ice cream
to anyone who signs up for a renewable energy tariff with UK company
Ecotricity. They are a superb role model for how to reach beyond the

is a rebellion in the form of a brand. The most effective branding is
simply the conveyance of your institutional realities. And Blackspot
was created from the ground up to institute the realities advocated by
its founders, Adbusters, who spearheaded the "anti-brand" as a way to
put their money where their mouth is and to prove that products can be
created without exploiting workers or manipulating minds. The shoes mix
organic hemp fabrics with recycled and reclaimed materials and are made
in a union plant. To further enact its values, Blackspot treats people
who buy its shoes as co-conspirators, not consumers — every pair of
shoes comes with a number that gives you access to company forums that
determine pricing and communication strategies.

For us, when we think of authenticity, we actually think of Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap,
even before Black Spot. Every bottle features Dr. Emanuel Bronner’s
30,0000+ word discourse on unity — making it crystal clear that this
brand means what it says down to its bones. But we didn’t choose them
for authenticity — why? Because they do such an awesome job of being
more than green. First off, their quality is sterling − they make an
outstanding 100% organic product. Furthermore, executive compensation
is limited to 5 times the salary of the lowest paid employee. Their
packaging is also made from 100% post-consumer recycled plastic, and
instead of trying to increase productivity by automating (i.e. using
machines and firing human beings), they maintain a craftsperson-like
production process that values every one who works there.

It doesn’t end there though. As the world gets more like them, they
continue to lead. They spearheaded the initiative for stricter organic
certifications in the Health and Beauty category (and in so doing,
generated a lot of publicity that reminded people of the organic
integrity of their own products — smart branding move!). They are
leading the battle to legalize hemp farming in the U.S.. They’ve helped
spearhead a Domestic Fair Trade initiative. And they’ve realized
Emanuel Bronner’s wish for unity by establishing a Fair Trade program
that unites both Palestinian and Israeli farmers. In the world of
businesses with a higher mission, this company rules!

INTEGRATION AWARD WINNER. This wasn’t one of our topics, but we wanted to call out Patagonia
for the genius work they do in integrating their messages of commitment
to outdoor adventure and the planet. They make it obvious that you
can’t really have one without the other. And like Black Spot, they make
you feel like you’re joining the brand, rather than "consuming it."

is a British-based company that makes excellent folding bikes in their
own facility in England, an impressive contrast to the outsourcing that
dominates most of the bike industry. In terms of branding, they do a
very simple yet very remarkable thing that demonstrates the best way to
develop credibility with your market — their web site includes a candid, objective guide to their competition.
If a brand can stand up and honestly and openly tell you to look at
their competitors and to consider them as an equally valid option, then
it stands in good stead to win your credibility and trust – it’s like
when a shop keeper tells you they don’t have what you want, but you
might want to try the guys down the road. Ultimately, you’re much more
likely to go back to them for something else, or at least recommend
them to your friends.

Actions speak louder than words. That seems a fitting way to conclude this series. Thanks to all those who’ve dugg us.

This post is the last of five focusing on the marketing
advantages of businesses that care as much about the planet as profits.
The first post addressed the need for sustainable businesses to differentiate themselves from their competitors and the second post addressed the need to align sustainability with people’s existing values. The third post looked at how sustainability can bring authenticity to a brand, and the fourth post explored the importance of being more than just green.

Jerry Stifelman is founder and creative director of The Change,
a brand-strategy and design agency that works exclusively with
companies and organizations that make the world more sustainable,
equitable or authentic.

[Disclosure: This guest post was arranged through TreeHugger
writer Sami Grover, who also works for The Change as the company’s
Director of Sustainability and Media Liaison]


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