Saturday, 5 May 2007

A tale of 2 slogans

Always an education visiting the lovely people at the Ecologist. One thing they have picked up in recent research is the militancy of new converts to the eco cause. It's a really interesting insight, when people first 'get' ecology (like getting religion) they tend to think in very black and white terms; evrything is divided into two piles, all good and all bad. As you learn more it becomes possible to discriminate a finer set of trade-offs; where nothing is ethics free, and you consider positions which are less politically correct & think through a wider range of issues. Case in point: there's a great article in their May issue by Jonathon Porritt on the politically taboo questions of population and immigration. When you know more you also do a lot more (ie beyond buying organic chicken) but with less fuss somehow. May's Ecologist also features also a very adult explanation by Katherine Hamnett about how and why she chose to work with Tesco on her Choose Love range. Details here

The other slogan story of the week is the Anya Hindmarch bag blacklash. I for one think its a shame. Brands must be tougher minded, in building eco marketing schemes that stand up to critical attention; you need to view it as "political not commercial" as one marketer told me last week; assume it will be attacked and work out what the response is, and if there isnt one tighten up the policies behind it. But on the other hand the scapegoating reflex, which says if it isnt perfect it must be rubbished will over time put off companies considering any such schemes. The ever shrill and finger-pointing Independent newspaper which led these attacks is positioning itself as the home of those dinner party militant neo-greens. I agree with them that it should have been organic, fair trade & so on; Hamnett's article spells out in detail what non-organic cotton farming and non-unionised labour in China means in terms of human suffering; and also suggests that organic farming of cotton in reality only adds a few pence to the retail price. But let those who are blameless throw the first stone (ie Independent Newspaper - when you have axed your car and travel sections and all the advertising from lowcost airlines and gas guzzling cars...) Although you've got to love the East End's latest must have street fashion item 'I'm not a smug twat bags' sold round the corner from the ecologist by marissa v

Overall big slogans probably arent a help. We need lots of modest, sensible and at times difficult actions representing genuine progress. We need to make being 80-90% greener normal, not a big statement. We already know all this stuff; its what we've been talking about in marketing for the last ten years; strong brands today are about DOING stuff, involving people, not posturing. It's just tougher when it's about green & there are even more reasons for brand humility.

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