I found this report very interesting reading. Deeper Luxury takes an in-depth look at the luxury brands market and some of the challenges and opportunities the issue of sustainability raises in this sector.
"We observe shifts in the luxury paradigm, emerging from major changes in social dynamics. In the future the highest quality product or service will be the one that generates the most benefit to all involved in it's production and trade. Consumers' knowledge of that benefit will be essential to their elite experience, and the prestige ascribed to them by their peers. In future, luxury brands could represent the greatest positive contribution any product or service could make to people and planet: they would identify the luxury consumer as a person who has both the means and the motivation to ensure that others do not suffer. The deeper and more authentic approach to luxury would require truly excellent social and environmental performance; consumers expect excellence in this, because they expect it in all aspects of a luxury brand."
I love the fact that they've chosen focus on topics such as celebrity endorsement, dedicating specific guidelines to this area. There are so many examples of celebrities making ill-advised decisions that are totally out of touch with shifting consumer opinion. I cringe every time I flick through the glossy magazines and see the face of some sports personality hawking sunglasses or perfume. It's just seems so shallow. I also love the fact that they've chosen not to overlook the importance of emerging luxury markets too. Factoring these issues in makes it a much richer document.
There's a really interesting debate going on here which tackles the issue of seemingly contradictory brands co-existing under one corporate roof. The example they're talking about is Unilevers famous and brilliant Dove campaign, that happens to share the same corporate home as the equally famous and brilliant Axe/Lynx campaign.
It's a fascinating subject.
Piers Fawkes had this to say on the subject:
"I think that we're moving into an era where you're not going to be able to have companies with brands with such opposing values. People want to work with (buy from) companies that have values that they adhere to. That's why Method has taken such a swipe at Unilever's soap market.
I don't think consumers are demanding that Unilever changes. They're just getting informed: The transparency of this digital age shines a light on Unilever and the company is left looking like it's just another marketing company. We're left understanding that Axe and Dove aren;t seperate companies that Unilever owns (and therefore may have some reason to act differently) - just different departments on different floors in the same grey building. And no one really wants to work with a marketing company."
Personally speaking I tend to agree, although ultimately, it will be the people that decide. It seems to me that when a brand like Dove takes such a moral stance then then the corporate brand needs to have their house in order otherwise they end up looking foolish. Suddenly the whole marketing thing looks a bit thin.
On a personal level, I have never been able to face eating a Quaker Oats Company product since the Honey Monster appeared in a sugar puffs commercial dressed in a Newcastle United shirt!
IKEA in Holland have devised a way to get people enthusing about re-decorating their homes with one eye on their bank balance. They organised a furniture swap. I think it says all the right things about IKEA. By initiating such a scheme they're being practical, creative, modern, ethical, and interesting all at the same time! Another example of brand building with out a 30 second TV commercial in sight. Or put simply, doing rather than saying. I love it.
Every year UK based Co-operative bank publish The Ethical Consumerism Report. It' is probably the most comprehensive look at the ethical consumer sector in the UK. It's packed full of interesting data which is beautifully presented.
It's a great piece of branding for the Co-operative Bank, underlining their credentials as an ethical bank, which made me wonder why no-one is doing something similar here in Scandinavia? (not that I know of anyway)
This post by Joel Makower looks into a recent survey by TerraChoice Environmental Marketing. They sent out teams to investigate any products making green claims. After initially identifying 1,081 products making 1,753 separate claims they found "all but one made claims that are either demonstrably false or that risk misleading intended audiences."
Sin of the Hidden Trade-Off — claims that suggest a product is "green" based on a single environmental attribute (the recycled content of paper, for example) or an unreasonably narrow set of attributes without attention to other important, or perhaps more important, environmental issues (such as the energy, climate, water, or forestry impacts of paper). Such claims aren't usually false, but paint a misleading picture of the product than a more complete environmental analysis would support. This was the most frequently committed "sin," made by 57% of all environmental claims examined.
Sin of No Proof (26% of all claims examined) — any claim that couldn't be substantiated by easily accessible supporting information, or by a reliable third-party certification. TerraChoice determined there to be "no proof" if supporting evidence was not accessible at either the point of purchase or at the product website.
Sin of Vagueness (11% of all claims examined) — any claim that is so poorly defined or broad that its real meaning is likely to be misunderstood by the intended consumer, such as "chemical free" or "all natural."
Sin of Irrelevance (4% of all claims examined) — claims that may be truthful but are unimportant and unhelpful for consumers, such as CFC-free products, since ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbons have been outlawed since the late 1980s.
Sin of Lesser of Two Evils (1% of all claims examined) — environmental claims that may be true, but that risk distracting the consumer from the greater environmental impacts of the category as a whole, such as organic tobacco or green insecticides.
Sin of Fibbing (less than 1% of all claims examined) — claims that are simply false, typically by misusing or misrepresenting certification by an independent authority, when no such certification had been made.
I agree with Joel Makower's point that not all of these are necessarily greenwashing and that some of the cases are probably down to sloppiness.
"marketers' efforts to place a green sheen on a product, perhaps rightfully so, but without offering some basic proof points."
But what does this all mean or green marketing and for those brands that really do help us minimise our impact on the planet. Well, it's basically bad news isn't it? Any genuine effort to offer a greener product or service could be met with scepticism. The last wave of green marketing we saw during the nineties eventually died a death because it too was based on a lot of marketing hot air and people saw through it.
I think the real danger is if people are successful with their greenwashing efforts, then the truly green, the truly innovative companies — the ones that have really figured out how to reduce their carbon footprint, how to produce a nontoxic product, how to make products out of renewable materials that can be reused — the truly innovative products are going to lose out.
Thanks to Russell Davies for this one. I'm not a big fan of corporate tag-lines. They tend to be self-important at best and in this case almost indecipherable. Another one I remember hating throughout my years at art college was the equally preposterous 'Newcastle College. More that just a college'. In all my years there, I never managed to work out what exactly they meant by this.
Anyone else spotted any nonsense pay-offs recently? There must be some good Scandinavian examples.
"A new marketing study reveals that conscious consumers expect accountability and transparency from companies that claim to be “green.” Companies that fail to do so put themselves at risk of a consumer backlash.
Who are these “conscious consumers”? According to the inaugural BBMG Conscious Consumer Report, almost 90% of Americans say this term describes them well. When shopping for products that are of equal value and price, these consumers would choose items that are energy-efficient, promote health and safety benefits, support fair labor and fair trade, and are made according to environmentally-friendly standards.
Some of the most interesting findings of this study include:
• Health and wellness are most important: Conscious consumers expect the products they buy to have a positive personal and direct impact.
• “Conscious consumer” is the preferred term: Americans prefer to call themselves “conscious” or “socially/environmentally responsible” over “green.”
• Price and quality are still #1, but locally-produced, healthy, and energy-efficient qualities are increasingly important to consumers.
The study also reveals that consumers are savvy when it comes to detecting “greenwashing” marketing attempts. “In a world of green clutter, conscious consumers expect companies to do more than make eco-friendly claims. They demand transparency and accountability across every level of business practice. Avoiding the green trap means authentically backing your words with socially responsible actions.” says Raphael Bemporad, founding partner of BBMG.
Consumers value honesty and are paying more attention to how their purchases impact the world beyond the supermarket. Producing conscious goods and services, and successfully communicating their authenticity, is the way to capitalize on this new consumer trend."
He's promising free copies to bloggers who link to this post but I'm plugging John Grant's new book regardless.
I was lucky enough to read through an early draft and I can tell you it's packed full of useful stuff if you're interested in how green issues can be used as a platform for communication and innovation. (everyone should be) I'd love to have gone along to the launch party tonight but I don't think it would hae been that environmentally responsible. Instead, I'll have a glass of wine tonight and read through a few pages.