From Isolation to Affiliation

Sustainable Life Media JP Collins, the owner and principal of Pylon Studios, will be taking an in depth look at some of the trends revealed in the Natural Marketing Institute's annual trends report.  This month he discusses the ways that businesses can advantageously market their green products and services by being innovative and emphasizing authenticity and quality.

Posted July 09

By JP Collins , Sustainable Life Media

At the beginning of 2009, Natural Marketing Institute (NMI)
released its annual trends report for the coming year. For 2009, they
found the overarching theme for 2009 is what they call Recalibration.
For the next few months I'm choosing one or more of the 10 trends
outlined in NMI's initial report, go into more depth and explore how
they effect change with customers and how we do business. Last month I
talked about Big Changes Through Small Steps. This month: From Isolation to Affiliation. By JP Collins

Nationally, people are coming together to share interests, learning
crafts or creating public space. From the maker movement to the livable
streets movement; people are attending events, getting out of their
homes or getting together with friends. Additionally, people are making
things and finding new uses for discarded item.

Ironically, in what would seem like an isolating experience, online
social networking is helping people seek out face to face interactions
in public spaces or situations to interact with others to learn, create
and have fun in ways that haven't been part of our society in a long
time. People are finding out about events, mixers or classes through
Twitter tweets and posts on Facebook or on blogs and getting out of
their homes, out of their cars (in some cases) and interacting with
each other.

On the Street

In San Francisco, the livable streets movement has been instrumental in creating Sunday Streets.
On designated Sundays, a specific street or part of town is closed to
car traffic to encourage people to come out and play in the street,
bike, roller skate, blade or walk. The same movement is driving other
street closures to create public squares and street plazas such as the
trial plaza now open in the Castro district in San Francisco that
promote personal interaction and civic pride.

The national trend of farmer's markets has been very
effective in getting people out to a public market place interacting
with growers and neighbors to promote healthier food and lifestyles.
For years the small town of San Luis Obispo
in central California has combined a street closure and farmer's
market/street fair event every Thursday evening. Five downtown blocks
of Higuera Street are closed and feature food stalls, produce stalls
and live entertainment.

Crafters and Makers

There's a new renaissance in making things with an added twist:
reusing discards to make something new. People are taking classes on
knitting, sewing and cooking. This month, the Maker Faire
is taking place in the SF Bay Area. This event combines technology,
crafting, DIY and creativity through reuse. And the rise in popularity
of magazines like Make and ReadyMade or web sites like Etsy is a true
indicator that people are interested in creating, purchasing and
sharing hand made items rather than buying more plastic what-nots made
in some factory employing questionable labor practices in another

On the market(ing) side, what you need to know

Green businesses and social entrepreneurs will do best in
marketing to this consumer trend. That's because green business and
social entrepreneurs have a lineage with roots in social and
environmental activism and grassroots organizing. Traditional
businesses entering the green market or promoting their corporate
responsible programs must be careful and creative. But all businesses
need to respond with innovation.

Look for ways to introduce your products or services in unlikely ways. For instance, this past San Francisco Sunday Streets
on May 10th, a bike rental company set up a booth in a part of town
where they normally do not have a presence. They rented bikes to people
who would ordinarily not be their customers. Being there introduced a
potentially new customer base to experience the service and possibly
use the service the next time friends or relatives visit and want to do
something different. A new customer in a new context.

Although this is a trend that favors small business, it presents
opportunities to businesses of all sizes. Like in my last article about
quality over quantity,
it's important that companies maintain their authenticity, especially
if they are sponsoring an event or participating in a community street

No matter what size business you are, marketing to this
trend requires new thinking in how to approach these customers through
messaging and positioning and is a perfect environment for viral
marketing. Mrs. Meyer's is a great example of that. From their
marketing directly to customers at street fairs, to ad copy and
positioning, to the videos of Thelma Meyers
talking about various everyday life experiences, they are speaking
directly to the audience embracing DIY and personal interaction.


JP Collins is the owner and principal of Pylon Studios,
a San Francisco creative agency that provides graphic design and
creative marketing services for clients in the LOHAS, green building,
and renewable energy markets. JP has over 12 years of experience in
graphic design and internet marketing, and has consulted for companies
like Great Place To Work Institute Inc., HarperOne (Harper Collins San
Francisco), CNET, Apple Inc., Barclays Global Investors and the San
Francisco Small Business Development Center.

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