Monday, 9 April 2007

Book Parts 2 & 3 (draft) are now online for reading

The links:
part 2
part 3

If you do get a chance to have a read (even if its only a skim) do leave comments here.

Do bear in mind its only draft 1, the formatting is a bit screwed up, it lost the footnotes etc. But the comments for part 1 have already been exceptionally helpful - it's only my foolish author's pride that worries about sharing stuff at this draft stage!

many thanks


NB If you havent read Part 1 yet, the link is in an earlier post, below.


Andrew Smart said...

A couple of things sprang to mind while reading the Penitent Sinner Approach bit.

First of all, wasn't there an old BR campaing with the end-line we're getting there'? I know it's not in the same green context but it might be worth loking into.

I also remembered this post by Russell Davies:

I particularly like his take on how brands can benefit from communicating their inadiquacies. He uses Flickr as an example. I think he expresses it well when he writes:

"Mistakes are also when the veneer tends to slip, if there is a veneer. The authentic voice of a brand or organisation is exposed when something goes wrong, if it's not the same as the voice you normally speak with people will notice."

I think this is probably because it's the closest brands come to being human. By showing they are flawed they become more interesting and accessable. People can relate to this kind of communication.

I remember a while back Typepad had some problems with their service. Instead of a defensive piece of corporate damage limintation they admitted to the problem and asked customers how they thought they should be compensated. Customers were allowed to choose from these options:

While the performance issues caused me some inconvenience I mainly found the service acceptable last month. Give me 15 free days of TypePad.

The performance issues made it very difficult for me to use the service on multiple occasions during the month. Give me 30 free days of TypePad.

The performance issues affected me greatly, making my experience unacceptable for most of the month. Give me 45 free days of TypePad.

I really wasn't affected and feel I got the great service I paid for last month. Thank you for the offer, but please don't credit my account.

It was such a brilliant piece of brand building. It just oozes respect.

Again, I know it's not specifically green but it does illustrate the point that being less than perfect is a credible position for a brand that users can identify with.

I hope this was some help. Don't worry if it wasn't. I for one am at ease with making mistakes in public. Although it is a little difficult with a sir name like mine.


Charles Frith said...

Good stuff. I'm making notes as I read through and so some ideas may or may not be related but are stimulated by the points made.

1. There's no catchy name yet for brands/organisations/products or services that act in an irresponsible manner. Should we be thinking about attaching a name that stigmatises those entities that clearly don't 'get it' yet. Politicians and their communications professionals are great at re-framing the language of issues so that the emphasis is added or taken out. I'm thinking about how tax cuts are generally understood by voters as having a direct affect on public services. This is much less appealing to the electorate than the language used in the States by the current administration who use "tax relief". It's the same issue but re-framed in a different way becomes much more cogent. Prof George Lakoff is the man to read on this subject and although everybody knows that green issues make sense it would be wise to adopt language that is difficult to re-frame at a later stage by big business who are slow to change their ways.

Here's some stuff on him that might explain the sort of language re-framing that I think needs to be preempted rather than waiting to respond. It's quite a powerful issue in my humble opinion. Greenwashing is a creative use of words and a form of framing words.
It sounds like it's been thought through.

So, for instance would it be a good idea to call those companies that are slow to change 'carbon extravagant'? I was a little suspicious of the carbon footprint word when it first came out but as I've seen how it unwinds in the popular lexicon I'm impressed how sticky it is and how easy it is to put a universal carbon metric on all facets of business (and life for that matter) that is accountable.

2. Your mention of Craigslist and Freecycle made me think about an opportunity for carbon extravagant brands that may not be in a position to renew their wasteful ways, in the short term, but could at least use their marketing communications to point people toward using green brands. By doing so they endorse the general intent, in a constructive way. I'm not talking about greening in the cynical way that we have already seen but in much the same way that carbon emission trading is a reality between countries, wouldn't it be an idea for say a soap brand to tie up with one of these low carbon digital entities. Almost use their marketing muscle to put their hands up and say 'we're not green yet, but while we get our act sorted out please use these services'. This is a powerful example of 'endorsed branded utility', I guess. I just made that up, but I like it.

3. I love the idea of people who have made profits on their housing in the last few years, reinvesting some of that to make further energy efficiencies. Housing Bloom is brilliant and any financial services provider or DIY centre or double glazing brand that fail to team up under that banner are missing out on bloody pearls for free on the Internet. Swine that they are :)

4. I'm a big fan of Mary Goodyear's work and it's helped me to not try and reinvent the wheel in some markets. However there's an issue worth bearing in mind. The Indian and Chinese emerging-middle-class-consumer is not yet, broadly speaking, a post modern consumer. It will creep in a lot quicker than it took for that sort of media literacy to be achieved in the West but for the time being the Indian and Chinese newly created middle classes are content to be marketed to in a way that draws on the American post-war mass-marketing-industrialised model. It wont last for long, but it's there and they are huge. They are not only growing very quickly but are also very much an aspirational model to the next wave of consumer. The ones who don't have a fridge or a car, maybe just a motorbike. I mean, they are not trend setters in the sense of Hoxton graffiti artists turned digital agency owners (I just made that up - it's plausible) but in the real sense of influencing a large amount of people with new behaviour. In short they are not post modern and would ridicule or fear the paradoxical nature of the two words and like their marketing communications the way they are currently being served up. We taught them this way.

5. I see that point 3 is covered later on in the chapter.

6. Just a thought, but the first part of the chapter is more prescriptive and requires a different level of attention than the latter part which is descriptive and uses very engaging and enjoyable to read examples. Sometimes people like to know that they need to put their thinking cap on and digest the meat and potatoes before moving on to the dessert. But it's certainly well worth it.

Charles Frith said...

Chapter 3. What an education! Looking forward to Chapter 4.

Freya said...

Hello John, I'm a planner in NYC and have been taking baby steps towards doing what you're doing so was thrilled (not to mention humbled) when I stumbled on your blog and book. Is all brilliant.

Since I've only just begun wading through your chapters, this question is probably a bit premature but I'm having trouble reconciling your advice to not market your green-ness with your advocacy of, for example, M&S's look behind the label and Plan A ad campaigns. Am sure it's a question of definition and all will be revealed as I read on but wondered if there's potential for confusion here? Caveat: I have a 7 month old baby so spend most of my time in a complete haze of sleep deprivation, so am unlikely your best judge.

On BP and greenwashing, interestingly some of our recent research has consumers putting them in the top 10 eco-friendly companies in the world (US and UK). We've also found their advertising has almost innolculated them against criticism among consumers, in spite of the glitches at the end of last year you refer to. So their campaign may have attracted criticism in the short term but have paid off in the longer term?

Anyway, enough from me, better do some work, will keep reading,


John Grant said...

Hi Freya

Yes it's such an interesting point you raise.

I'd be interested to see that BP research if you can share. I've got stuff on it in the UK, but not US which is where they did most of that advertising.

There is a bit (1C on the grid) when I talk about marketing your greenness as a company. You must work out if you are a reformed act or a bit of a saintly utopia. In either case the point is to be:
1. humble
2. only communicating because you want to set an example for others to follow
3. including education campaigns to develop the market for greener alternatives (look behind the label is in 2C)
...and as a result not boasting.

I need to think about the consistency issue you raise though, overall my feeling is still 'dont' (dont greenwash) but the M&S examples you mention (which I like) do run against that and theories should always fit the messy reality rather than neat twists of theory. I think my idea was that M&S was okay because it was an exemplar.

Ayway you have hit on something that was nagging at the back of my mind too thx so much.

I will have to mull it over.


Freya said...

John, Let me see what I can share with you - if it were up to me you'd have the lot but you know how it is...

I only raised the inconsistency point because I suspect readers will want to literally use your book as a set of instructions - I do, and heaven forfend I might have to use my own initiative in a grey area like this...!

I 100% agree with your humility point and that's something I think BP has done well (the line here is 'it's a start'). Am having a discussion with another client at the moment who is loathe to talk about their sustainability creds - which are myriad (in the 'reformed sinner' model) and already pretty well documented. I'm inclined to have them speak up a bit more. But you're making me think twice about it, especially as their brand is doing well in this arena purely by word of mouth. Hmmm, think I better read a few more chapters.

Cheers, F.

Freya said...

OK, so I've read part 3. Really engaging. Great examples and love the archetype and religious stuff. It's funny you mention Cadbury; I've been banging on about how I think it's time for a return to the days when brands acted on their (grand, philanthropic) ideals rather than their focus group feedback and the examples I've been giving are the great US industrialists George Eastman and Milton Hershey. Anyway...

Really want to share the BP stuff - have put in a request to share the data.

A couple of other things to add to the hopper: I have no idea if a US perspective is really part of what you’re doing so do what you will with this input: although I completely agree with you about the humility thing, I do think you can get away with hubris in the US much much more than in the UK; in fact people are almost a bit suspicious of humility here and more inclined to ‘tell’ than ‘show’ (a former boss describes interviewing US candidates. “They’ll say, ‘well of course you know I’m extremely smart and incredibly witty’”, he said). That Chevy line – I wouldn’t be surprised if it goes down a treat - the other variable being that the US consumer (or at least the one who would be buying a Chevy hybrid) is quite a long way behind his UK counterpart, though that's changing.

I was wondering what you’d have to say about Wal Mart and have just found it. So here’s a question for you: I’m amazed by how much Wal Mart is doing. It’s great. I’m surprised they’ve let the word out only through PR so far and not mainstream comms – I guess this is to their credit. However the weird thing is, they’re still doing TV advertising but their ads are all old Wal Mart. I’d almost welcome some ads about the green good they’re doing – because I feel like their ads now lag the corporate image and because it’d much more interesting than what they do talk about in their ads (also because I believe they could effect change in the middle American consumer like no other information source, but oops, my agenda’s showing). Maybe I’m not your average Wal Mart shopper but still. Any thoughts on that? Should they just stop doing the TV and stick to the PR or are the different channels serving different functions, the TV reassuring John Doe that they’re still the same Wal Mart in spite of all that sissy green stuff? (of course in reality I doubt it's this well thought through - their marketing/agency travails are well-documented)

Ahem. I think I've just veered wildly off-point but may help if you're thinking about the US market. Great stuff and thanks for sharing.