Green Marketing in the Age of Twitter, Green Fatigue & Bright Greens

McGill MBA Japan Independent Study

McGill MBA Japan Independent Study


“Every social and global issue is a business opportunity just waiting for the right kind of inventive entrepreneurship, the right kind of investment, the right kind of collective action.”
- Peter Drucker


Table of Contents

INTRODUCTION .........................................................................................................4 GREEN MARKETING IN THE AGE OF TWITTER, GREEN FATIGUE & BRIGHT GREENS ......4 HISTORY & BACKGROUND OF GREEN ..................................................................7 HISTORY OF THE GREEN MOVEMENT ..........................................................................7 GREEN MARKETING 101 ........................................................................................12 DEFINING GREEN MARKETING ..................................................................................12 THE GREEN CONSUMER BANDWAGON ......................................................................13 VARYING SHADES OF CONSUMER CONSCIOUSNESS..................................................15 A THIRD SHADE – BRIGHT GREENS ..........................................................................17 KEY CHALLENGES FOR GREEN MARKETING ..............................................................19 A CHALLENGE FOR THE LATE 2000S – GREEN FATIGUE ............................................22 CASE ANALYSES ....................................................................................................25 INTRODUCTION ........................................................................................................25 CASE: THE BP OIL SPILL - ILL UOCIAL MEDIA AND CROWDSOURCING ......................26 CASE: SEVENTH GENERATION AND TRIBAL BRAND MARKETING ...............................32 GREEN NGO MARKETING ........................................................................................47 CASE: THE URBAN FOREST PROJECT – DESIGN MEETS GREEN ................................47 CASE: URBAN FOREST MAP - PNLINE CENSUS FOR TREES ......................................50 CONCLUDING THOUGHTS .....................................................................................55 APPENDIX.................................................................................................................57 ADDITIONAL LINKS .................................................................................................65 PHOTO CREDIT:.......................................................................................................66



Green Marketing in the Age of Twitter, Green Fatigue & Bright Greens
In 1999 in the middle of the dotcom era, I moved to San Francisco after taking a job as an art director at one of the top Internet agencies at the time. The excitement of being part of something as big, fast and sexy as the web boom was a vibrant wave that we rode even as it dashed us in a heap on the beach as the dotcom bubble broke. The web market rebounded and I continued my career as a creative director launching corporate websites and digital ad campaigns. Over time, the web has changed from one-way communication to multidirectional, user-driven communications (Web 2.0) making the Internet social and exciting once again. At the end of a MBA, I began to ask myself what would be the next wave that would usher in new business and marketing opportunities around the world? From talking to professors and through my own investigations, I decided green marketing businesses were that next wave and had the added bonus of being responsible and good for the planet. If I were to start my own business, work for a company or work as a communications consultant; I decided green marketing would surely be the most promising trend in a future. At the same time I asked myself how I could leverage my past web experience and involvement with social media marketing which is currently in full swing. At that point, the theme for this investigation became clear and the synergies of the social web and green marketing became the topic of this paper. 4

The paper is titled “Green Marketing in the Age of Twitter, Green Fatigue & Bright Greens” because green marketing does not exist in a vacuum but is part of a collection of relevant cultural trends that if understood, I believe, can make green marketing more effective and high impact. For “the age of Twitter” the paper will discuss how social media can be used to build iconic tribal brands around green companies and nonprofits. For “the age of green fatigue”, the paper will look at the challenge of the oversaturation of environmental issues and green marketing messages that have lead to greenwashing. And for “the age of bright greens”, the point is that there’s a place for a new shade of green that takes advantage of the Internet, design and innovation to architect a brighter future. The paper will begin by giving a history of the green movement, mainly in the U.S., to better understand what green marketing has grown out of, as this form of marketing has a cultural legacy bound to conservationism and corporate mishandling of our food, products and the environment. The next section of the paper will be a Green Marketing 101: defining green marketing, showing how it has evolved, discussing the three shades of green, and looking at the challenges faced by green marketers today including greenwashing and green fatigue. In the last major section, the paper will attempt to show both best case and worse case examples of businesses and nonprofits pursuing green marketing in some form and the hope is to derive lessons in which to better manage similar programs in the future. Some of these cases were based on conversations with people working in the field of green marketing and the hope is to bring some realism to the work. From the get-go environmentally minded people are suspicious of marketers and 5

advertisers for taking part in orchestrating consumerist waste and environmental destruction. So, in the end, it is this paper’s ultimate goal to show how we as green marketers can win back their trust and have authentic relationships with our customers by collaborating with them to find healthier and more sustainable lifestyles.


History & Background of Green

History of the Green Movement
Very different than other kinds of marketing, green marketing traces its roots back to activism and cultural upheaval over long periods of history. Important to understanding green marketing is having a general knowledge of the environmentalism which has helped shape the public’s consciousness and the very way we see corporations, consumer products and the governments which are in place to protect us.

Early Environmentalism The origins of the environmental movement can be traced back to different parts of the world throughout history. One example is Arabic medical treatises during the Arab Agriculture Revolution (later known as the Medieval Green Revolution) starting in the 8th century and was concerned with such seemingly modern notions as air contamination, water contamination, soil contamination and solid waste mishandling. Four centuries later in 1272, King Edward I banned the burning of sea-coal after smoke became a major air problem in England. In Europe, the Industrial Revolution created environmental pollution as great factories sprang up and the use of large volumes of coal and other fossil fuels lead to unprecedented air pollution as well as large volumes of chemical discharges that were damaging to humans. The British Alkali Acts in 1863 to control air pollution was the first large-scale law to be passed. The 7

environmentalist movement, at least in Europe, grew out of this reaction to this industrialization, growth of cities and poor air and water quality.1

Early Americans and Transcendentalists The green movement in the U.S. can be traced back as far as 1739, though it wasn’t called environmentalism and still considered conservation up until the 1950s. Benjamin Franklin petitioned Pennsylvania, citing the rights of the people to stop waste dumping and abolish tanneries from Philadelphia. But one of the most influential U.S. green innovations was in fact based on intellectual thoughts dating back to the 1830s. Environmentalism is actually an important part of American philosophy first developed by the Transcendentalists, most notably Henry David Thoreau. In his book Maine Woods he called for the conservation of nature and federal preservation of virgin forests. He did this by first capturing the minds of the public on the true nature of wild places. Walden was an even more well-known book that captured Thoreau’s return to nature and which argues that people should become intimately close with nature.2

U.S. Pragmatism Thoreau’s contribution to conservation was largely philosophical and while his words were hugely influential later on for educated nature conservationists in the 20th century, one of the most active periods of conservation in the U.S. began in the late 19th century and often called the Era of Pragmatism. John


“Environmentalism”. Wikipedia. 15 Mar. 2010. <>.



Muir was important in this period after he moved to Yosemite in 1869, shortly after the U.S. government set aside wild lands for parks. Through this Scottish-born American naturalist’s writings and activism, which argued for the inherent right of nature to exist (foreign to some people even today), the U.S. public and politicians were influenced to begin a change of awareness about preserving nature for the public good. He helped found the Sierra club in the1890s and became its first president to help start a number of important parks and educate the public. In contrast to Muir’s back-to-nature approach, President Theodore Roosevelt after visiting Yosemite in 1903, was instrumental in publicizing the conservation movement at a wider scale. The National Park Service was established in 1916 under Woodrow Wilson. 3

Green Goes Personal The U.S. green movement was in large part slowed down and forced out of the public mind by the World Wars and the Great Depression. While the Sierra Club continued to grow and establish new parks, the green movement mainly focused on land conservation which was of little concern to the average citizen. It would take large-scale disasters and catastrophe at a more personal level to wake up the U.S. public to such things as food quality and consumer product safety.4 The first of these was the 1948 disaster in Donora, Pennsylvania called the “Death Fog” in which a U.S. Steel zinc and steel plant emitted a fluoride cloud into the town killing 20 and leaving 100s of citizens sick and dying. After

3 Anonymous (“Sara”). “A Brief History of the Modern Green Movement in America”. WebEcoist. Mar. 20 2010 <> 4 ibid.


a U.S. Steel cover up, numerous angry lawsuits occurred as well as the first calls for national legislation to protect the public from industrial air pollution. Significantly, this national outcry marked the beginning of the U.S. public holding industry and corporations accountable for their actions.5

Sending a Green Message Many people associate the green movement with the Rachel Carson’s groundbreaking book Rights of Spring that was serialized in the New Yorker and then published in full in 1962. Conservationist Carson wrote that detrimental effects of DDT pesticide on the environment, particularly on birds. Carson’s writing while criticized initially by the chemical companies was eventually embraced by society and even U.S. President John F. Kennedy directed his Science Advisory Committee to investigate Carson's claims. Carson was not a scientist nor an authority in chemistry or biology but the power of her voice was heard above industry to eventually end the use of DDT in the U.S and raise the consciousness of the U.S. public. The 1970s were marked by numerous steps to clean up the environment: the National Environmental Policy Act, the Clean Air Act, the founding of Earth Day, the Water Pollution Control Act, and the Endangered Species Act. At the same time disasters at Love Canal in 1978 and Three Mile Island in 1979 terrified the public with toxic waste, pollution, and contamination. The 1980s were plagued with oil spills most notably the Exxon


Bryson, Chris. “The Donora Fluoride Fog: A Secret History of America's Worst Air Pollution Disaster”. Fluoride: Protected Pollutant or Panacea?. 12 Apr. 2010 <>


Valdez in 1989 while there was backlash from industry against environmental laws.

The Nineties - An Owl and Treehuggers The 1990s were marked by radical activism as new environmental groups such as Earth First sprang up in reaction to corporate negligence. At the same time conservative radio made fun of environmental issues such as the spotted owl, the merits of clear cutting and the “treehuggers”, passionate young activists that chained themselves to trees to stop bulldozers. These events helped gain the green movement wide visibility but also had a marginalizing effect and politicized key green issues in emotional ways. The movement was often depicted as anti-corporate, anti-property and cult-like. At the same time, climate change was jeered at as over reaction by hippy fanatics. From the point of marketing discussed later in this paper, this perception of marginalization is a challenge for green marketers even today.6

Al Gore and Beyond Al Gore’s award-winning documentary “An Inconvenient Truth” brought the green movement into the public eye like no other media event since Rights of Spring. The film made it clear even to the most conservative that our food was chemically treated and genetically modified, our water was contaminated with toxic chemicals, our resources were running out and our wasteful habits were filling landfills. Scientific proof is clear enough to the vast majority of developed countries that climate change is actually occurring and the need to




get on board with the Kyoto Protocol not only made sense but was an embarrassment to Americans whose president continued to stay out of it.

Green Marketing 101

Now that a history of the green movement (mainly in the U.S.) has been given to set the background for societal change in the past 150 years, it is logical that we next look at green marketing and how it has developed in modern times. Keep in mind from the past section on the green movement that green marketing springs from a cultural movement for public good and this can be an advantage and disadvantage to marketers depending on which side of politics they are on. I will also show in this section that green comes in differing shades from dark green to light; and that depending on one’s level of engagement can be closer to the original movement (dark greens) to more an expression of one’s personal brand and buying behavior (light greens).

Defining Green Marketing
The meaning of “green marketing” is vague in the same way as the words “green” and “marketing” each are construed in different ways. So first it would be beneficial to have a definition for green marketing. Using a voice of authority, according to the American Marketing Association (AMA) green marketing is defined as “The marketing of products that are presumed to be environmentally safe.” This is their retail definition but they have two other – 12

social marketing and environments definitions. The social marketing definition is “The development and marketing of products designed to minimize negative effects on the physical environment or to improve its quality.” That leaves the environments definition, which is “The efforts by organizations to produce, promote, package, and reclaim products in a manner that is sensitive or responsive to ecological concerns.” 7 Why are three definitions needed for something as seemingly simple as selling sustainable products? This depends on who is doing the “selling” and who is doing the “buying”. If we are looking at the retailer The Body Shop selling environmentally safe beauty products then the retail definition is a good fit. But if we are thinking about the marketing needed in a corporation’s CSR program, by an NGO raising funds or the U.S. government wishing to influence public behavior, it is a necessity to get stakeholders to buy-in to their activities and each needs a wider definition. Immediately, we face the framing problem that green marketing is needed for more than just commercial purposes. And even in commercial purposes, one of the main focuses of this paper, we’ll see the frame can change from personal to societal, depending on the marketing strategy needed by the organization.

The Green Consumer Bandwagon
The term “green marketing” first came into existence in the late 1980s and gained prominence in the early 1990s. The American Marketing Association


“Green Marketing”. Dictionary. Marketing Power (American Marketing Association). 15 Apr. 2010 <>


held the first workshop on “Ecological Marketing” in 1975 and it lead to a book of the same name, a first of its kind. A series of man-made and natural disasters around the world in the late 1980s lead to the beginning of green concerns, going beyond the typical deep-green crowd. Floods in Bangladesh, earthquakes in Armenia, the Berlin Wall coming down; it was a time of turmoil and change. The UK Green Party achieved an unexpected 15% in votes in 1989 and in 1988 The Green Consumer Guide was published, attracting 1 million readers.8 But how did this effect business? By the end of the decade, many people were calling it the ‘green consumer bandwagon’ and what followed was a series of brands jumping aboard and making grand green claims. New brands, first springing up in Europe and the UK, such as Ecover and The Body Shop came into fame during this time and became standard-bearers. The Henley Center called it the “Caring and Sharing” decade. As with any bandwagon, nobody wanted to miss the green marketing trend in the late 80s and early 90s and many mainstream brands launched their own green ranges including Boots launching a Body Shop clone called Naturals and Sainsbury’s and Safeway supplementing their conventional lines. However, as Joel Makower, a writer on green marketing and author of The Green Consumer states, the first green marketing revolution lacked substance and in his own words, “Many of those early products were outright failures: biodegradable trash bags that degraded a little too early; clunky fluorescent bulbs that emitted horrible hues; recycled paper products with the


Grant, John. The Green Marketing Manifesto. West Sussex, England: John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., 2007. 24-25.


softness of sandpaper; greener products that couldn’t do their job. Much of it was expensive and hard to find, to boot.” Public interest soon waned, as functional benefits of products didn’t balance with the ethical issues they claimed. This was an important lesson in early green innovation as the hype faded and consumers became more sophisticated. Household cleaning brand Ecover, after moving from health food stores to popularity in mainstream retailers like Safeway, by the early 2000s began to realize the need to completely rework R&D for efficacy, in other words actually clean dirt, could no longer rely on only green claims.9 Where did it all go wrong? It’s not that hard to produce a house cleaner or garbage bag that is both environmentally safe and functionally effective. While some of it may have to do with problems in early innovation, the main issue was corporations rushing to take advantage of green agendas to make a quick profit without paying attention to a key aspect needed for effective green marketing – authenticity both for green and marketing purposes.

Varying Shades of Consumer Consciousness
Rolf Wüstenhagen, a professor at University of St. Gallen in Switzerland, wondered what was preventing consumers from buying cleaner, greener technology for their homes. While partially it had to do with the significant investment in buying and installing new heaters, Wüstenhagen discovered through his research that there are varying shades of green in consumers. Through the study that consisted of 61 consumers in 9 focus groups, and

9 Grant. p. 26.


testing them on social and psychological factors before getting to the point of economic calculation, it was found that marketers of green technology faced two types of consumers – “dark greens” and “light greens”.10 The dark greens were shown to value environmental aspects more than other attributes, are willing to pay a premium for it, care about energy independence and value sourcing products from a local vendor. They also care about applying green solutions like orienting their home towards the south. On the other hand, light greens were much more concerned with convenience. For them, there’s a trade off between environmental aspects and affordability of product. They are less likely to pay for green attributes, care about comfort and ease of maintenance. They are also risk averse and are less willing to adopt new green technologies. While different levels of green behaviors in consumers may be obvious, the important lessen here is that it is impossible to send a single marketing message to reach both kinds of greens. Even for consumers that tend to buy green, their motivations differ, some do it for environmental reasons (dark) while others do for more for personal status (light).


Kanter, James. “The Color of Consumer Consciousness: Light Green and Dark Green”. New York Times. Science. 12 Apr. 2010 <>


A Third Shade – Bright Greens
Another shade of green was introduced by writer Alex Stephen in his blog and book Worldchanging: A Users Guide for the 21st Century (2003). Stephen dubbed this new shade the “bright greens.” Stephen described bright greens as “the belief that for the future to be green, it must also be bright. Bright green environmentalism is a call to use innovation, design, urban revitalization and entrepreneurial zeal to transform the systems that support our lives.”11 Stephen contrasted them with light greens who he said care more about lifestyle and consumer change as the key to sustainability advocate change at a personal level through the way they shop or small changes in the home (for example recycling). He feels that light greens are one of the main ways sustainability has become mainstream and cool. Stephen says, on a downside, many believe light greens are to blame for the “green fatigue” that is occurring (green fatigue will be discussed later in this paper.) In a different way, dark greens often stress pulling back from consumerism, local solutions and shorter supply chains and advocate change on a community level. In their best, dark greens have great know-how in bioregionalism, reinhabitation and taking control of one’s life and surroundings in a collective way. On a downside, dark greens can be known for being doomsayers and warning (and sometimes advocating) collapse.12


Steffen, Alex. “Bright Green, Light Green, Dark Green, Gray: The New Environmental Spectrum.” Worldchanging. 18 Apr. 2010 <> 12 Steffen.


Compared to light and dark greens, bright green environmentalism is more an intellectual current among North American environmentalists with a number of businesses, blogs, NGOs and even governments now explicitly calling themselves "bright green". The City of Vancouver strategic planning document, for example, was titled “Vancouver 2020: A Bright Green Future”. Northern Europe and Scandavia especially have a strong following of bright green proponents and the recent Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen (COP15) in December 2009 used bright green as their guiding message (see In the case of the green marketers challenge, similarly to the first discussion of light and dark, with this new perspective on light, dark and now bright greens, the job of the marketer to align her products and market communications with the right consumer target is not a simple one, especially when one considers that the three kinds of green are more conceptual than real and that people would naturally pick and choose across the three depending whether they were consuming, organizing a community or designing a new innovation. But at some point decisions must be made and the marketer must decide who their customer is and she is bound to fail unless they really know whom their value proposition is the best fit for.


“Bright Green Environmentalism”, Wikipedia. 20 Apr. 2010 <>


Key Challenges for Green Marketing
According to market researcher Mintel, about 12% of the U.S. population can be identified as True Greens (similar to dark greens), consumers who seek out and regularly buy so-called green products. Another 68% can be classified as Light Greens, consumers who buy green sometimes.14 In the face of this difference, companies must make difficult choices on how to market their products.

How Green is Green Enough? One of the main challenges green brands and products face is the lack of standards or public agreement about what green really is. As Joel Makower states, on a fundamental level, there is no definition of how “green is green enough” when it comes to what claims a company can make about itself or its products. This lack of consensus in consumers, companies and governing bodies, according to Makower, has slowed the growth of green marketing as cautious companies are unwilling to make claims that they may get called out on by NGOs and eco watch activists. At the same time consumers are mistrustful of company claims of green as they have become increasingly sophisticated and knowledgeable through information from the web.

The Eco Bag Problem In 2007, “Queen of Bagland” Anya Hindmarch designed the “I’m Not a Plastic Bag” eco bag for the UK supermarket chain Sainsbury’s to help establish the credentials of the company. While it became a fashion hit among the hip and

“Green Marketing”, Wikipedia. 20 Apr. 2010 <>


decorated in London, selling 20,000 before selling out, it got caught out in the media for developing a campaign that was already passé as organic cotton and Fair-trade had become the norm. The headline on one blog read, “I’m not an ethical shopping bag.” 15The mainstream news took up the story and much of the impact of the green communications was diminished. Chris Arnold, creative partner at ethical marketing company Feel said, "So what if people buy it because it's a fashion statement, if the person who uses the bag is shallow and driven by fashion, it still helps the planet because they haven't used a plastic one.”16 But sophisticated consumers, unfortunately for Sainsbury’s, don’t think this way. The first challenge was what Sainsbury’s thought was an innovative green statement had already moved on and the company was seen by vocal true greens as being a clueless brand. This was further aggravated when Sainsbury's was accused of hypocrisy after it admitted the bag was made in China and was neither organic nor fair trade.17 At the same time, green for fashion’s sake, while one way to make green a normal and acceptable behavior, arguably lessens the ethical halo that eco bags and other green products might have.


“'I'm not an ethical bag': Sainsbury's 'green' bag not organic or fair trade”. London Evening Standard. 24 Apr. 2010 <> 16 Winterman, Denise. “It's in the bag, darling “. BBC News. 25 Apr. 2010 <> 17 Mendick, Robert. “Exposed: 'I'm not an ethical bag'”. This Is Money. 25 Apr. 2010 <>


Virtue Cannot Be Claimed As mentioned earlier in the section about the green movement, green marketing is completely different than other forms of brand marketing. The key difference is that conventional branding and advertising are focused on generating awareness and perceived superiority, in other words a sales job. When a typical ad agency helps a company create a vague brand statement of virtuous claims and their actions don’t live up to the claims in every aspect of the business, as there are so many, it invites suspicion and scrutiny. Especially with today’s social media, potential scandals are picked up on Twitter so fast that they’ll have the well-intentioned marketing director’s head spinning before the TV networks get a whiff of it. When companies try to use certain images or keywords that research has supposedly proven to influence consumer behavior, they tend to backfire. By suggesting it without actually saying green, these cultural codes point to the activity of “greenwashing”, the practice of companies disingenuously spinning their products and policies as environmentally friendly. Companies describing their products as natural when in fact they are only using small amounts of natural ingredients and filled with a long list of inorganic chemicals is a typical reason consumers don’t trust claims of virtue and why they can only hurt the brands that pursue them without actually living up to them 100%. In many cases, they would be better off selling the products without the green tag and focusing on the core functional benefits.18


Grant. p. 76-79.


On a corporate level, when a company states it’s corporate vision about green in a vague and emotive way, it can also go sour. The public judges companies by what they do and whether they ‘walk the talk’. By saying ‘trust us’, after years of ugly industrial truths, a typical American consumer cannot help being suspicious that it’s just empty corporate smooth talking. In many ways, the advertising industry itself is to blame believing consumers too naïve to see beyond their strategies to pull on their heartstrings. As one green marketing expert says, “green is a principle, not a proposition”. Traditional brand advertising has rarely been able to do more than sell value propositions, certainly not believable ethical principles.

A Challenge for the late 2000s – Green Fatigue
“It seems like all you hear about these days is "going green," and I'm starting to wonder if there's going to be a backlash. I care about the environment, and even I'm getting a little sick of hearing about it...”19 These are the words of Rebecca, a friend of Jennifer Grayson green journalist at the Huffington Post’s Green (and editor of green politics blog launched after working on the Obama campaign) included in her March 24th column titled “Eco Etiquette: Do You Have Green Fatigue?” She talks about a trend in the past couple of years that started picking up in 2008 in which environmentalists began to worry about a “green fatigue” or oversaturation of green messages in the media and


Grayson, Jennifer. “Eco Etiquette: Do You Have Green Fatigue?”. Huffington Post. 25 Apr. 2010 <>


contradictory information about how to live a proper sustainable life. She says that while Al Gore might have won the Noble Prize, more recently in a 2008 Gallup Poll “35% of Americans don’t believe in global warming” (see Appendix, Exhibit 1), nearly twice the number compared to 1997. Even while media coverage of environmental issues increases, our awareness decreases. She thinks green fatigue is partially to blame and recommends a few approaches to green marketers to avoid this trap. “Stop harping on global warming” Grayson makes the point that people have become weary listening to impending global warming catastrophe, as it’s hard to believe in something that may not happen in their lifetime. Instead she recommends talking about things that “touch people on a personal level and are easy to rally behind.” She uses the examples of focusing on the elimination of coal ash pollution, reducing the use of toxic pesticides, petroleum-based fertilizers in our food supply and conserving natural spaces for local communities. All of these positively impact climate change.20

“Focus on saving money” She makes the logical point that when companies like Ford turn off their computers at night, they BOTH save $1.2 million and 20,000 tons of C02 emissions. She also mentions that in an economic downturn especially, green messages need to appeal to people’s will to actually save money. “Less focus on green products”




The writer’s point is that with the proliferation of eco-friendly products, a lot of them don’t add value and some are even guilty of greenwashing which undermines consumer faith in looking for green products (she used as one example.) She sees much of the green products as a diversion from really innovative inventions that could bring breakthroughs that really change consumers’ behavior. Green Marketing Manifesto author John Grant shares this opinion, “green issues are pointing to the need for step change, not marginal and cosmetic improvements.”21

Overuse of the ‘g’ word Interestingly, Grayson believes one other reason for this fatigue is overuse of the word “green” itself. With the only synonyms being environmental, ecofriendly, and sustainable; people may be becoming desensitized to the imperative of the situations and ideas represented by the words. The message in essence has gotten watered down and assimilated into so many marketing and media messages that it no longer stands out in the noise any longer.22

21 22

Grayson. Grayson.


Case Analyses

To best understand how organizations make use of green marketing, it is useful to examine how a variety of companies, non-profits and even governments have both effectively and ineffectively gone green. It is my hope that by looking at product marketing and communications through a variety of examples of green marketing that future marketers can benefit by the analyses and hopefully stand on the shoulders of past attempts to create more authentic and successful marketing programs. These cases will include the following: • A recent controversial news item, the BP oil spill to analyze the ways the company and the U.S. government dealt with the crisis through PR, social media, crowdsourcing and possible greenwashing. • How environmentally safe product company Seventh Generation uses social media and community to build a tribe, increase customer loyalty, listen to their opinions as a form of market research and use digital media for viral marketing. • Two notable cases of green NGO projects – one called the Urban Forest Project which used design to draw attention to a green message in cities and the second called the Urban Forest Map which is a Web 2.0 enabled crowd-sourced tree census started in San Francisco. Interestingly, both are successful collaborations between nonprofits and city governments. 25

Case: The BP Oil Spill - PR, Social Media and Crowdsourcing
On April 20, 2010 a BP oil rig went up in flames, killing 11 workers and beginning a disastrous oil spill that dumped 210,000 gallons of crude oil a day into the Gulf of Mexico. BP tried a variety of solutions to stop the spill from the 21-inch wide pipe including a preventer blowout switch, 200-ton box lowered over the leak, a third attempt was to run a mile long tube into the pipe in hope of sucking up the oil, among others. BP, the EPA, the U.S. Department of Interior, the Department of Defense, and OSHA set up Deepwater Horizon Response (DHR) to manage response operations. The DHR describes itself and its website on its About Us page as: A Unified Command links the organizations responding to an incident and provides a forum for those organizations to make consensus decisions. This site is maintained by the Unified Command’s Joint Information Center (JIC), which provides the public with reliable, timely information about the response.23 Beneath this text are a long list of logos with BP at the top and followed by 15 other logos 8 of which are Department of the U.S. government (Departments of Homeland Security, State, Defense, the Interior as well as the National Parks Service, U.S. Fish & Wildlife and the Coast Guard.) What isn’t clear and draws doubt to this whole exercise in communications is who is really behind it and what are the true intentions of it. How can BP and the National Parks Service be part of a “unified command”? Besides the DHR website, the DHR


“About Us”. Deepwater Horizon Response. 15 May 2010 <>


is also using a variety of social media including a Facebook page, a Twitter page, a YouTube page and a Flickr page. The question I have is how much is this damage control greenwashing for BP and the U.S. government and how much is this an earnest attempt to keep people informed and gather solutions to stop the spill? To answer this, both the usage of the media, the quality of the communications and the character of the social media responses should be looked at.

The Website Deepwater Horizon Response website24 (see Appendix, Exhibit 2) includes the latest news of clean up activity, FAQs, Hotline contact info, report incidents and claim submissions, volunteer opportunities and suggestion submissions of how to stop or clean up the spill. The top page shows Flickr photos of a random selection of disaster control activities and YouTube videos. Much of this is clearly meant to be useful for people living in the Gulf area and citizens interested in environmentalism to give as much information as possible and give people a chance to contribute their own ideas. It appears to be fairly governmental in nature so a user can’t help coming away with the feeling that this is not so much a brand play for BP but an effort by the government. At the same time, it feels like a weak attempt as the level of information is shallow and there’s no sense of the true position of the organizations backing the site.



On the bright side, the Suggestions page is a rather innovative way to use crowdsourcing to increase the number of options BP and the government agencies can use. The site says about suggestions: “BP has established a process to receive and review submitted suggestions, on how to stop the flow of oil or contain the spill emanating from the Mississippi Canyon 252 well. Proposals are reviewed for their technical feasibility and proof of application. More than 4,800 ideas have been proposed to date. Given this quantity of technical proposals suggested by industry professionals and the public, it may take some time to technically review each one.”25 The key takeaways here are most likely that A) the government and BP are aware of the fact that crowdsourcing is an effective way to gather ideas from environmentally engaged social media users and B) they understand that by allowing people to submit they are gaining some favor from them as social media users appreciate being able to give their opinions. At the same time though, looking at the number of suggestions and the number of Twitter followers 4300, this number is not large enough to really come up with truly value added ideas. So in that way it could appear to be more a gesture than an actual innovative way to solve the spill problem. Also, the PDF suggestion form itself seems awkward and hard to fill out and the site says that reviewing each idea takes a great deal of time, bringing the whole process into question.

Social Media Usage


“Suggestions”. Deepwater Horizon Response. 15 May 2010 <>


The DHR Facebook Page26 (see Appendix, Exhibit 3) has by far the most active user generated content and where you can see the green sentimentality of the angry citizenry coming out. If anything, the page is a venting stage for enraged users to express their feelings on the disaster, a large volume at BP such as the comment “Obama needs to immediately seize all of BP’s assets, it should no longer be called BP, but rather a state controlled cleanup organization and any other oil income should be utilized for ongoing cleanup work.” Whether this is an effective green PR tool is questionable and as neither BP nor the government is in dialog with the protestors only makes them seem more guilt ridden. The DHR’s use of Twitter27 and YouTube28 is much the same, a space to disseminate the latest news release while maintaining a distance from the crowd, which shows a disconnect from the people you’re supposed to be gathering ideas from in order to solve the problem. Incentivizing Through Social Media Better methods would be to post questions to stimulate more constructive input, to post responses to commonly expressed negative opinions to bring the conversation into a more civil dialog and possibly even incentivize the crowd to generate a larger volume of high quality suggestions by rewarding the selected solutions with a suitable amount of money. This last idea of using monetary reward to motivate social interaction is normally not an effective means to nurture engagement in social media but in this case the level of seriousness and potential ecological and economic loss that the spill
26 27 28


threatens to cause, requires a different sort of entrepreneurial user to stimulate better quality crowdsourcing. Along this line, rather than just using Facebook and Twitter, the DHR could be better off setting up a system similar to InnoCentive29 to more effectively connect with inventors and technologists needed to find the right ideas. The incentive/prize would help to spur the competitive behavior of the participants producing potentially better results.

Failing Grade for BP Unless It Succeeds Through Action In 2000, British Petroleum launched its green campaign, “Beyond Petroleum” and for almost a decade it invested heavily in it to position itself as a socially conscious oil company that recognizes the link between fossil fuels and global warming. While criticized by skeptics and environmental groups who chided it as “Beyond Preposterous” and “Beyond Belief”, it was also shown to be amazingly effective. Sales from 2004 to 2005 rose from $192 billion to $240 billion then to $266 billion in 2006. A Landor Associates survey of consumers found that 21% of them thought BP was the greenest of oil companies, followed by Shell at 15% and Chevron at 13%. The company also claimed that the green campaign 2000-2007 increased brand awareness from 4 to 67%. Most critics agreed that the company was just using green language to change people’s perceptions (ie. greenwashing), however they could not deny the effectiveness, such as this comment “BP is running a greenwashing campaign,” said John Stauber, founder of the Center for Media and Democracy, “and from a sales and marketing perspective, it is brilliant.



They’ve positioned themselves where everyone wants to be today, especially oil companies.”30 In 2008 the success of the ongoing campaign had compelled Adweek to ask if advertising, as much as action, can change public perception. What we see in this most recent oil spill disaster is there is no good in trying to talk their way out of this one. The goodwill of all those years of green branding is used up. There is simply the action left to stop the leak, clean up the spill and pay Gulf Coast residents for damage incurred in order to save the company’s name and future business off U.S. shores (or any other country’s) that will look on BP with suspicion. Whatever it can do to minimize the damage to the Gulf of Mexico ecology, will in turn help to reduce its increasingly tarnished green brand image and goodwill. No CSR program or ad campaign could deal with this, at least not for many, many years. If BP hopes to take action on their own or use crowdsourcing to do it, the company must take more extreme steps to diligently do the right thing so people can see this and start to forgive them. No one stays mad forever.


“‘Beyond Petroleum’ Pays Off For BP”. Environmental Leader. 19 May 2010 <>


Case: Seventh Generation and Tribal Brand Marketing
On Tribal Marketing At the core of marketing and communications is building a relationship with a customer, but the key to that is being authentic and relevant.31 With green product brands there is a unique opportunity to build what John Grant (Green Marketing Manifesto) describes as “green tribal brands” or a form of marketing that allows customers to collaborate with companies to actually create brands. Grant uses the word tribe to connote membership in a group of like-minded people. One well-known non-green example of is the tribal nature of the Harley Ownerʼs Group (H.O.G.) that takes on the coloration of a cycle gang but is made up of middle class, midlife bikers.32 People today identify with brands but since postmodernism, norms and social diktats have been fragmented so that people can truly pick and choose what they will wear, buy, act and be. The job for life is gone, the Internet has changed information access and people have lost trust in traditional institutions. Brands have a much harder time today than in the 1950s and the tribe is one way of dealing with this. From the perspective of a green business, building a tribe is key to attracting and engaging both light greens and dark greens alike. In the past, green was associated with a particular

31 32

Li, Charlene. Open Leadership, San Francisco: Jossey-Bass 2010. Grant. p. 152.


style group such as vegan, hippy, conservationist or NGO. Part of the problem was that dark greens were seen as too exclusive to the point that it sabotaged their cause. Green marketing now means building iconic green brands that create exclusive aspiration and desire around green lifestyles and choices. But the format of this membership has changed with culture and technology. Grant writes this tribal culture is “folksy, going back to the time when stories and other cultural memes were all like urban myths; the good ones spread. The tribes are perhaps re-emerging online, but they are now fluid networks of inclusion, rather than static, exclusive sets.” In Web 2.0, what this means is building an iconic brand around a community or a social network.33 This is exactly what has happened with leading green household products company Seventh Generation, building a tribe of light greens and a fair share of dark greens through a variety of social media channels and engaging in conversation around environmentally safe lifestyle choices. As will be shown, the company has made good use of this tribal approach in social media to build customer loyalty, create relationships with customers, inform about green benefits, collaborate by asking and listening to customer opinion and achieve a new kind of transparency to build trust with it's customers and employees.


Grant. p. 153.


Company Background Seventh Generation, Inc. is an American company that sells cleaning, paper, and personal care products. The company was founded in 1988 and is based in Burlington, Vermont. The company focuses its marketing and product development on sustainability and the conservation of natural resources. Seventh Generation uses recycled and post-consumer materials in its packaging and biodegradable, and phosphate- and chlorine-free ingredients in its products. The company takes its name from the Great Law of the Iroquois that states, "In our every deliberation, we must consider the impact of our decisions on the next seven generations."34 CEO and “Chief Inspired Protagonist” Jeffrey Hollander founded the company after being an entrepreneur in the adult education industry and audio publishing industry which he sold to Times Warner, initially taking partial stake in energy conservation product mail order business and then launching Seventh Generation in 1988 in Burlington, Vermont. After his son suffered a serious asthma attack that was cured partially by the use of non-toxic cleaners, creating a healthier home environment hit home for Hollander. An avid entrepreneur and environmentalist who believes in total transparency of organizations, his leadership has been key to the formation of a green marketing company that makes the best use of social technology and education to effectively market the company brand and products.


“Seventh Generation Inc.”. Wikipedia. 20 May, 2010 <>


In kind, Seventh Generation describes its business practice as “focused on offering people ways to express their idealism, passion, and commitment to causes larger than themselves at every point along its supply chain—from suppliers and partners to shareholders, customers and its own staff.” 35 With an education focus to the organization, it sets out to help customers make informed choices and provides information through a variety sources including packaging, its website, newsletters (“7th Gen News”), a variety of social media websites, booklets and presentations by CEO Hollander himself. On the product side, Seventh Generation offers a wide variety of environmentally safe products including non-chlorine bleached, 100% recycled paper towels, bathroom and facial tissues, and napkins; non-toxic, phosphate-free cleaning, dish and laundry products; plastic trash bags made from recycled plastic; chlorine-free baby diapers, training pants, and baby wipes; and chlorine-free feminine care products, including organic cotton tampons.

Communications in the Social Media Age For the purpose of this paper, I contacted Seventh Generation after noticing the companyʼs active use of social media and recent Webby Award nomination of their digital marketing campaign “Million Baby Crawl”36 in the Best Green category. In a very social media like way, I tweeted under the #greenmarketing tag and was soon contacted by Seventh Generationʼs web

35 36

“About Us”. Seventh Generation. 24 May, 2010 <>


editor and web marketing specialist Chris Middings37 who offered to let me interview him about the company and their use of social media for their green marketing. The following is based on two telephone conversations we had. Seventh Generation first began experimenting with social media a few years ago and started out using a familiar mix of YouTube, MySpace and Facebook. In the past year they have added Twitter, FriendFeed and Google Buzz as they have expanded social media use. This was lead by the web team that is part of marketing but a variety of other departments interact in the social channel including communications/PR, customer insights and customer service. The company originally decided to engage in the social web when the leadership realized there was a conversation occurring with or without them in blogs, forums and social networks; and they came to the conclusion that it was in their best interest to join in or have their position be ignored. When asked what social media has accomplished for the company Middings answered, "Timely conversations and no 'wasted' advertising. The old shotgun approach using TV, etc. just leads to mental pollution. Social allows us to talk with those who have raised their hand to talk with us.” In this way, social media for green companies could even be seen as changing the game of the ad business. By speaking directly to customers, they have greater impact and can fine-tune messages in real-time, redefining the brand message as they go along. Of course, this sort of communications might not be that easy for large corporations with strict brand and PR guidelines (for example P&G), but for a small to medium size green company like Seventh



Generation, enabling employees to reach out to customers can give the company competitive advantage over larger competitors.

Facebook Middings said that their Facebook page38 was by far the most active of all the social media channels. (See Appendix, Exhibit 4) Combining both employee and customer posts and questions with remarkably long lists of comments (often over 100 comments per post) the Seventh Generation Facebook page is a best case for social media being done in great frequency and depth. One reason that explains this success of Facebook pages over Twitter is that is that it fits the tribal nature of Seventh Generation’s employee and customer communications. What the Facebook becomes for green marketers and their customers/advocates is space where customers can self-identify with the green brand, bounce ideas off one another and make friends of shared passions. It's centralized enough that people can have conversations together as well as easily pop out into their other groups or social networks.

Twitter Twitter39 on the other hand appears to be more an effective transmission channel to give updates about what's going on in Facebook, the site community, simple product advice and green news. In this way, Twitter seems more like a traditional marketing tool for the company to broadcast one-way messages. Like a funnel, subscribers get channeled into more

38!/SeventhGeneration?ref =ts 39


educational or communicative platforms. This is a popular way many brands use Twitter as well as a form of buzz marketing that goes viral when subscribers retweet Seventh Generation tweets or post their own related posts to #7thGen hash tags. In this way Twitter transcends one-way communication by empowering its customers to spread the word and attract new customers who are interested in creating an environmentally safe home.

The Nation Community Site Besides the off-site social channels, Seventh Generation maintains its own community as part of their main site that they call in true tribal language “The Nation”. It consists of a series of forums that provide a centralized, controlled social space for the company to facilitate conversations and conduct focus group like interactions to better understand customersʼ reactions to products. On this Middings said, “The Nation asks folks to register to post to our forums, download coupons, etc. We also send them a twice-monthly newsletter. It is a great way to educate them about the other issues in their lives that can be made healthier. Our primary goal is education.”

Listening Through Social Media At the same time, Seventh Generation’s customer service staff take a non-PR tact closer to what traditional call centers did for them before they went online. Customers pose questions, health problems, recommendations and praise directly to these customer service reps who in turn answer directly back in an open way that all subscribers can read and gain insights from like a call center gone public.


Measuring Success The next important question is how does Seventh Generation measure its social media effectiveness? Social media monitoring and analytics have developed considerably in the past few years however Middings answered, "Measurement is harder to define. We're not using an analytics package for it but overall it has been a very effective way to talk directly to consumers.” Like many companies first starting out with social media, Seventh Generation looks at a disconnected mix of data from weblogs, survey results, numbers of comments and followers, overall sentiment, etc. to get a general idea of how communications are going. At this point, more than effectiveness, they appear to be focused on the content of the dialogs they are having with customers (ie. What do people think of products?) In the future, says Middings, the next step for the company would be to start using a social media analytics package like Radius 6 to measure quantitatively if each of their campaigns, product launches and channel usage are creating real value. The question immediate surfaces: “If you don’t measure your social media, how do you know if you are being effective in communicating and listening in the social web?” Unlike Web 1.0 (ie. static corporate or ecommerce websites) in which we used to only track our website clickstream data (via Webtrends or similar tool), tracking the social web and decentralized web is a lot more challenging due to the fact that users are posting to “living pages” through comments, off-site content in feed readers and aggregator sites (can be measured via Feedburner) and Citations of other people talking about you (measured via Technorati), for a starter, not to


mention social networks Twitter and Facebook. The following diagram and next two sections are discussion of fundamental social metrics the company could use to start monitoring their success (if they are not already doing so). As Twitter and Facebook are clearly the most actively used services by Seventh Generation, there is a discussion of metrics for each.

(Sources for Chart



Twitter Metrics • In the case of Twitter, the company is posting with several accounts so it could be useful to learn which accounts are getting the most success around growth rate of followers (percent change of growth/loss to total

40 41

Kaushik, Avinish, Web Analytics 2.0, Wiley Publishing: 2010. P. 266-271. De La Houssaye, Lee. “The New Facebook Page Insights: Getting to Know Engagement Metrics”. Market Net. 25 May, 2010 <>


in given period), number and frequency of tweets, shared link click through rate (CTR), amplification (# of retweets) and the most popular tweets. • The number of retweets is key to gauge whether something of value is being tweeted to followers. • Average CTR for shared links is key to understanding the impact of links that point back to Seventh Generation’s websites. • Both retweets and CTR can tell them about followers’ preferences and help focus Twitter efforts. Comparisons across accounts could also allow experimentation with different communication styles.42 This can be done using a variety of 3rd party applications. Web-based Hootsuite is a free solution that handles many of these metrics. • Another advantage of Hootsuite is it allows teams to coordinate posts and replies by creating “Assignments” to delegate specific tweets or replies to specific accounts and individuals while avoiding redundant reposting of the same messages. This could be key to Seventh Generation for focusing their team efforts while keeping track of metrics and overall sentiment of user comments.43 • Conversion rate for replies can be used to benchmark how many replies are sent and received with the account compared to a Twitter average or some other goal. High conversion rates tell whether a

42 43

Kaushik, Avinish, Web Analytics 2.0, 266-271, Wiley Publishing: 2010 Olson, Dave. “Coordinate for Efficiency and Accuracy with HootSuite Assignments”. Hootsuite. 28 May, 2010 <>


conversation is actually being had, not a one-way transmission. TwitterFriends is a good analysis site for this ( • Another Twitter analysis tool that has very useful analytics is where the key measurement is “Influence” which is based on 25 variables, with 3 categories: True Reach (engaged followers), Amplication Score (chance that you’ll be retweeted), and Network Score (your engaged followers are influential). The main account @SeventhGen received a 48 Klout Score44 which is comparatively very high (only slightly lower than Starbucks which has a much higher True Reach or number of followers) (See in Appendix, Exhibit 5)
Facebook Fan Page Metrics

As Middings mentioned that their Facebook fan page was the most active of all their social media channels, it’s important to discuss about how they could go about measuring effectiveness.


“SeventhGen” results. <>


All Facebook fan pages have a free analytics tool called Facebook insights (pictured above) built into the page that is accessible by the administrator (the person who set up the page). It measures user exposure, actions, and behavior relating to your Social Ads and Facebook Page.45

Facebook uses an algorithm that calculates your number of posts, total interactions received on posts, and your page’s total number of fans as well as “other factors” over a rolling seven-day period – and generates a single number called “Post Quality”.

The charts also tell you the growth of your fan base over time broken down by country. As a KPI, the company should set a growth rate to try to stick to.

There are charts for most user interactions such as the total number of times a page was viewed per day; total photo views, audio plays, and video plays for the content you have uploaded to your page. This should be analyzed to focus on the kind of content users prefer.

Overall, Insights is pretty limited but Webtrends has just come out with Facebook support including Twitter activity driving to Facebook Fan pages, Facebook Fan page activity overlaid with corporate blog posts, Conversion performance if they happen in Facebook, Custom applications, Facebook page tabs, and Facebook ad click performance.46

45 46

Olson. “Facebook Analytics and Measurement”. 1 June, 2010 <>


Facebook page tabs in the case of Seventh Generation are important to see how much users are interacting with the latest campaign Million Baby Crawl, their coupon promotion page and their RSS feeds page.

Overall, looking at the large volume of comments to both company and user posts, the positive sentiment and the successful way promotions appear to being used on the fan page, Seventh Generation does not seem to have any major problems and should now focus on fine-tuning their communications through experimentation and paying attention to Page Insights and possibly the new Webtrends to offer customers the most engaging content.

Seventh Generation Customers To get a better understanding of the Seventh Generation customers, I asked Middings how green their customers really were. To answer this he provided results to a survey users fill out when they join the community website (see the survey in the Appendix, Exhibit 6) for the question “What are the two main reasons you are interested in Seventh Generation products?” The first most answered at 36% was “Personal/Family Health” which puts them in the light greens camp, seeing green as a personal choice of purchasing products for their family. They would most likely be turned off by preachy green messages but are 44
Source: Seventh Generation online poll Survey Question: “What are the two main reasons you are interested in Seventh Generation products?” (level of green = long-time interest or new interest in the environment)

eager to insure their family’s health. The second most answered at 24% is “long-time interest in the environment” points to a more dark green leaning. At the same time 12% say they have a new interest in the environment and another 15% say they have a new baby. Considering their products, Middings has come to realize their green household products are unfamiliar and even strange to many people and they are up against people’s mother-in-law’s who attempt to preach old (toxic) brands they are familiar with. In addition, young mothers are a main target for their communications and education programs, as these first time customers become interested in non-toxic, safe products for their new babies such as the biodegradable diapers and green cleaning products. Then as these mothers become more informed and loyal to specific product brands, they have the potential to migrate to other products and categories.

Summary: Seventh Generation’s Transparency When asked what the company’s overall social media strategy was, Middings answered, “We see it as a way to interact with customers. We sell B2B, so this is a great way for our Consumer Insights Team to directly interact, in real time, to answer consumer questions. Social is like an 800 number that everyone can see.” When asked whether the leadership and president of the company gained from the findings of the Consumer Insights Team, Middings said that they make regular presentations to the management to share consumers’ issues with products and areas where they could improve. From this the company makes proactive changes to products as well as marketing style. These insights also help Middings’ communications team know what 45

sort of information is needed by consumers to be as transparent as is being demanded of them. He said, "Social works best when a company is transparent and social is forcing transparency overall so it's a great fit for us. We have nothing to hide and welcome dialog allowing us to improve products, gauge interest in new products, etc." Transparency is a clearly stated mission of the company president Hollander. He published a management book titled “Responsibility Revolution” where he talks about “for purpose (and profit)” business leaders who first must stand for something before considering how to make a profit. He points to the start of the recession as the investment banks lacking accountability and transparency. He also underlined the greenwashing taking place in CSR programs that merely try to cover up wrongdoing. To be truly responsible, he makes the point that companies must be completely transparent in what goes into their products, what processes were used in manufacturing them and how waste is managed. It is inferred that companies in the future will not be competitive or sustainable unless they become more and more transparent to provide customers with the information to choose them over competitors. Hollander and Bill Breen in a corporate responsibility manifesto in say, “By publicly baring its less than admirable impacts on society and the environment, the transparent company takes the first step toward collaboratively fixing its problems.” In this way, Seventh Generation attempts to provide customers with as much sight into the company and its products as possible. The style of its communications and social media reaffirm this commitment and bring


customers closer to the brand and compelling them to join the tribe of other customers to spread the word to their friends and families.

Green NGO Marketing
Innovation and Creativity for a Green Purpose As with green fatigue that is a challenge for companies like Seventh Generation due to oversaturation of sustainability messages, green NGOs have a similar problem of facing indifference and it is a necessity to look for new innovative and creative approaches to reach the public and donors with their causes. News about such green issues as global warming, diminishing rainforests and extinct species gets jumbled together with such corporate disasters as the BP oil spill and the overall mood is grim and even defeatist. There is clearly a place for new influences both web 2.0 and real world events to get the sustainability word out, raise funds for such things as urban forestation projects and give young people a sense of hope that a difference can be made. In this section, two noteworthy examples will be given for how new channels, new kinds of expression (the first case) and new technology (the second) is being utilized to engage a public of all shades of green. While NGOs, these examples could also prove useful for corporate green marketing.

Case: The Urban Forest Project – Design Meets Green
Often, green initiatives still have a tree-hugging, hippy or activist exclusivity that turns off many including even light greens that make up the majority of


potential advocates. Along comes Worldstudio47, New York City based marketing and design firm that specializes in campaigns for social and environmental change, that has partnered with cities and other organizations in the U.S. to launch progressive, even hip programs for green change. The most well known Worldstudio project, while working with the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA), is The Urban Forest Project, which in Fall 2006 launched as a first-of-its-kind outdoor exhibition, taking root in New York City. One hundred eighty-five celebrated designers, artists and students employed the idea and form of the tree to make a powerful visual statement on banners that were displayed throughout Times Square (See Appendix, Exhibit 7.) Since then it has spread throughout other cities in the U.S. including Albuquerque, Baltimore, Denver, San Francisco, Toledo and Washington, DC. This unique environmental, public arts and educational initiative calls on artists, designers and students in each location to employ the idea or form of the tree to make a powerful visual statement on these banners that are displayed throughout the community. The tree symbol is used as a metaphor for sustainability and the banners at the end of each exhibition are recycled into tote bags and auctioned off to raise money. Says Worldstudio head Mark Randall, "Instead of chucking the banners in the garbage when we


Worldstudio Blog. <>


take them down at the end of October, we'll give them to Jack Spade to make into tote bags, we'll auction these to raise money for scholarships for kids wanting to study art and design. I love the idea that through this project we're also sustaining the next generation of design talent, not just producing a load of pretty banners." 48

Analysis of Urban Forest Project The important thing to take note in this case, is a seemingly simple idea like enabling 185 designs and artists to design banners around an even simpler tree icon can have a great potential for grabbing the public’s attention through grassroots activities that spread to other cities. The cities themselves, eager to both improve their image as sustainable (a form of municipal CSR) as well as looking for innovative ways to educate their residents around green, naturally are interested in programs like Urban Forest. For this very purpose, Worldstudio has “templatized” the Urban Forest Project and offered it up to Denver and Albuquerque and Denver. However, since they lost money, Worldstudio has decided to manage the Washington DC and San Francisco projects with the help of local partners. As a green business idea, the Urban Forest Project is scalable and opens up new opportunities for the small design studio. The Project is exemplary in that Worldstudio sustains itself while continuing to create social, change-oriented solutions for clients. At the same time, it clearly acts as amazing PR for the small firm and gives them the credibility to attract


Walters, Helen. “A Forest Grows in Manhattan”. 5 June 2010 < p+news+index_innovation+%2Bamp%3B+design>


corporate client CSR projects with a community bent. Having well-paid green communications professionals in abundance means NGOs and corporations alike have the voice to achieve their goals, cutting through the noise, avoiding greenwashing and battling green fatigue.

Case: Urban Forest Map - Online Census for Trees
Urban forestry NGOs have worked for decades in most cities in the U.S. to plant more trees in their communities and thereby improve the quality of life. The majority of them function as volunteer-driven organizations and don’t receive much funding from municipal governments. One such NGO, the Friends of the Urban Forest (FUF) in San Francisco, California is a community-empowering NGO that started in 1981 and plants nearly 1000 trees each year. With 12 staff members and many neighborhood volunteers, the organization plants trees throughout the city every other Saturday. Not surprisingly, considerable logistics are involved in planting; FUF obtains permits, removes sidewalk concrete, supplies tools and materials and selects, purchases and delivers the trees. FUF also faces the challenge of increasing public awareness of the importance of trees in an urban environment.49

The Urban Forest Map


“About FUF”. Friends of the Urban Forest. 5 June 2010 <>


Within this setting, an innovative new social, Web 2.0 approach to engaging urban residents was first introduced in the San Francisco area on April 15, 2010. The Urban Forest Map ( is “a collaboration of government, nonprofits, businesses and you to map every tree in San Francisco.” Urban Forest Map project manager Amber Bieg said, “We’re going to publish the most up-to-date data from our data sources. Then, from that point on, we’re going to allow the community to add and edit and update that information. It’ll become a tree census from the community and function like a Wiki.” The idea originated when Bieg was planting a tree for the LA nonprofit tree advocacy group Tree People and realized there was no easy way to document the planting, share it with the rest of the community, measure the impact or -- most importantly -- engage others with the importance of urban forestry. She put together initial plans for a webbased tree mapping tool, and with funding from Autodesk she assembled a team and launched a prototype. The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CalFire) provided a grant to complete the website. Friends of the Urban Forest was the project sponsor throughout and helped to publicize it and tie it to actual tree planting activities from launch.


In addition to allowing people to post information about the trees in their neighborhoods, the map-wiki will help “calculate the environmental benefits the trees are providing -- how many gallons of storm water they are helping to filter, how many pounds of air pollutants they are capturing, how many kilowatt-hours of energy they are conserving, and how many tons of carbon dioxide they are removing from the atmosphere.”50 By measuring the “Eco Impact” in turns of a dollar amount, the rationale for planting more trees is made even more convincing to both residents and the government. The data can then be used by urban foresters and city planners to better manage trees in specific areas, track and combat tree pests and diseases, and plan future tree plantings. Climatologists can also use it to better understand the effects of urban forests on climates, and students can use it to learn about the role trees play in the urban ecosystem. In the case of


“About”. Urban Forest Map. 10 June, 2010 <>


San Francisco, different parts of the city have different microclimates (for example hilltop areas versus the sandy areas near the beaches) and the record of varying tree health in these area tells FUF and city planners what kind of trees have the best chance of thriving in each location. Urban ecologist and project manager Kelaine Vargas underlined the importance of crowdsourcing by saying, “There’s a growing understanding of the value of ‘citizen science.’ Science isn’t just the realm of professionals and people with doctorates anymore. We all have something to offer: a glimpse into the world just outside our windows, documentation of our environment. This information is really valuable for planning and improving and just understanding the world around us.”51 Vargas sees this website’s green technology as a wave of the future and sees San Francisco at the forefront of using computers and networks to green and beautify the city. With the help of open-source software and leveraging the growing power of geographic information systems (commonly known as GIS tools), the Urban Forest Map will likely have uses beyond those currently

envisioned. San Francisco is the first city to use the Urban Forest Map, but
others are expected to follow. “Million Tree” campaigns are taking off around the nation, and this tool enables the on-the-ground community information sharing vital to the success of such campaigns.

Success Factors for the Project


Vargas, Kelaine. “Quotes”. Urban Forest Map Blog. 10 June, 2010 <>


The Urban Forest Map launched with considerable buzz appearing in the San Francisco press,, Huffington Post, Treehugger blog and word-of-mouth around the city. Going forward, the key success factors for the Urban Forest Map would be the following: • Steady growth of users finding, posting and editing trees on the map. This could be accomplished through the buzz generated via social media such as Facebook52 and Twitter53 to spread the word to new users and update people on new features and key milestones. • The success of the Urban Forest Map expanding to other cities in the U.S. and possibly outside the U.S. • The tendency of crowdsourced content to generally improve over time, despite the potential for error inherent in CGM such as Wikipedia, • Other developers leveraging and building on the open-source platform to offer richer information about the forestation of the city. • Continued funding.

Analysis & Summary of Urban Forest Map For green nonprofits, simply issuing newsletters, holding community meetings and maintaining a blog is not enough to broaden the reach of green initiatives and attract lighter green to the movement. The Urban Forest Map succeeds by using technological innovations and the trend of consumer-generated media to enable residents to discover and share the experience of a city in the

52 53


process of becoming green through tree planting (thereby earning a place as a case study in this paper). This case also shows an unusual collaborative process as the map developers worked with a variety of organizations for funding and support – a corporation (Autodesk), government (California Department of Forestry) and an established green nonprofit (FUF) to achieve this online crowd-sourced tree census. Lastly, what makes the Urban Forest Map significant is that it becomes a tool for improving the environment by quantifying the benefits of trees in reducing air pollution, offsetting greenhouse gas emissions and reducing energy consumption.

Concluding Thoughts

The Sum is Greater Than its Parts For all practical purposes, this paper cannot hope to cover all aspects of either green marketing or social media marketing. What we have looked at is two niche marketing trends that when colliding reach a larger audience than green marketing could do on its own. At the same time, green marketing gives social media a purpose and a value that it does not have if left to people tweeting what they had for lunch today. Together, we have green marketing in the age of Twitter where green fatigue can be defeated and the bright green vision is one step closer to achieving. It is obvious that as BP with its oils spill was our villain and Seventh Generation was our champion. But I believe of the two, BP probably learned


more from its miserable affair about what people think of them and where they have to change to be relevant in the future. Whether they actually do make this leap and win back consumer trust, BP acts as a lesson for all industry on how a brand can become a hollow image overnight. And that is how it should be as the age of brands is drawing to a close. In the post-brand age, brought in large part by the democratizing effect of the Internet, word-of-mouth and community rule while brands are demystified and commodified. Once more, it is more about “who” the person is you are buying your products from and what people similar to you say about it. In these crazy times, unwieldy to many businesses and NGOs, dynamic new ideas for how to engage with the market are needed. Seventh Generation engages in open dialog embracing the goods and bads of the social web to get to know their customers as people and listen carefully to give them what they need for their healthy households. Design firm Worldstudio in New York came up with a concept to tie together creators and cities around a green theme that benefits future design students. Nonprofit urban foresters in San Francisco came up with a map-wiki that enables citizen scientists to record the trees in their community and gain new insights on how greening their city can effect both the environment and their pocketbooks (the key to sustainability). In the end, we will not reach everyone and not every household will be green. But the future of green marketing is looking a lot brighter than it did in the 80s and 90s. You see it everyday in the blogs and forums, people thinking for themselves and coming up with hundreds of new ideas for how to eat, travel and live greener; bringing all of us, including MBAs and businesses, 56

one step closer to what some call bright green while others simply call progress.

Exhibit 1:


Exhibit 2: Deepwater Horizon Response Website


Exhibit 3: Deepwater Horizon Response Facebook Page


Exhibit 4: Seventh Generation Facebook Page!/SeventhGeneration?ref=ts


Exhibit 5: Twitter metrics - measure of influence at


Exhibit 6: Survey to Join the Nation that collects a wide variety of demographic and psychographic data



Exhibit 7: Urban Forest Project – Sample Banners


Additional Links (Urban Forest Map) (Worldstudio’s corporate site, the forprofit company that controls it) (Worldstudio’s blog, reinforcing their brand as socially and environmentally responsible) (Urban Forest Project - NYC) (Friend of the Urban Forest)


Photo Credit:

The cover photo “Paper Lanterns” is attributed to “Cali2Okie (April)” and was found on Flickr and is under Creative Commons License (AttributionNonCommercial-NoDerivs):