Books

The changes experienced in sustainability over the last ten years or so have been nothing but phenomenal. More and more companies have embraced the need to act more responsibly and manage their impacts. What started as ‘doing less harm’ has turned into bottom line benefits as companies have found new ways to match managing the triple bottom line with shaving costs off the business bottom line. But you don’t cut yourself into growth and growth is the bread and butter of companies. And it’s the holy grail of sustainability – growing the business top line. That’s why we need consumers to come and join the party – they already do, just look at TOMS, Patagonia, Method, Seventh Generation, Dove and many more. What is missing isn’t the consumer but a better grip on what makes them tick – a sustainable brand they can trust, buy and advocate. In my new book I cut through the myths and noise to create a sustainable brand model, a fusion of product and branding. It’s when these two dance that we create consumer breakthrough and the magic happens. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Let’s simply create more sustainable brands – and this is the ‘how to’ guide that will help you get there.

Use the code Campher15 in the voucher section to get 15% discount!

Link to the book here – Creating a Sustainable Brand: A Guide to Growing the Sustainability Top Line

Hey, I have a job as well! Imagine that. Someone actually pays me to have an opinion. Anyway… Thought I should give you a peek at the type of stuff I write for work. This will go on our work blog in the next few days. It’s been edited. You’ll see that! A bit different from my usual style and topic. But it gives you an insight into some of my other work-related thoughts.

Build it (green) and they will buy?

Everything seems to be turning green. And there is nothing wrong with that – companies creating new, innovative products and services that are good for them and good for the environment. But consumers haven’t completely bought into this yet. A number of green products aren’t flying off the shelves the way companies anticipated. Why is it that the green revolution has taken companies by storm, but not consumers? With the environment at the forefront of consumer concerns, it makes one wonder, why consumers aren’t dropping the bad stuff and buying the good stuff. We build it, but they just won’t come.

Why?

Some products are a big hit with consumers – the Prius and CFL light bulbs are taking off in a big way. So why aren’t they buying green shoes, food, computers, etc.?

There are many reasons why people buy certain products and not others – price, functionality, “coolness,” brand loyalty, etc. One often overlooked factor is: how do the environmental aspects of the product help the consumer?

Let’s first look at why the Prius and the CFL light bulb are so popular. They allow consumers to feel better about themselves when they use these products. A person starts their Prius and immediately feels “greener” than their neighbor with the gas-guzzling SUV. They feel better and more environmentally responsible with every mile they drive. It is the action of driving that makes them “green.” The same goes for a CLF light bulb. They feel better about themselves each and every time they turn on the lights. The simple action of switching on the light enables them to feel like an environmental “activist” – that they are making a difference.

You said you wanted a green car...

You said you wanted a green car...

The environmental benefit doesn’t come from the company making the Prius or the CFL light bulb. The “goodness” comes from the consumer using the product instead of an alternative product. A Prius isn’t a car – it is an environmental tool for the consumer. The CFL light bulb doesn’t just provide light – it provides the consumer with an opportunity to make a difference through the simple action of flipping the switch.

The success of these “green” products lies in enabling the consumer to take action. The act of making a difference through using these products makes them successful. So many green failures can be traced back to lacking this fundamental element – allowing consumers to feel “green” each time they use a product. When all the “goodness” is in the making of the product and not in the using of the product, no other action is expected from the consumer. The only action the consumer needs to take is buying the product. But the act of buying is not perceived as an act of environmental activism. This doesn’t allow the consumer to feel that they are taking environmental action.

Buying a green product, that’s green qualities are all in the production phase, leaves the consumer with a very basic question: what about me?

You want to sell a green product? Then let your consumer be part of the “greenness.” Give them something that they can do apart from just buying the product. Give them a way to take action. Let it be easy – like starting a Prius or flipping a light switch. Give consumers simple actions that make them feel like they are making a difference each and every time they use your product. Let them be part of the change.

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More green stuff from me:

Can I interest you in a green Blow Up Doll?

Okay, so I don’t really want you to buy a blowup doll. Not even a green one. But it seems as if we think consumers will buy anything green – or rather that a green product will have an edge over competing not-so-green products. Consumers might be more interested in the environmental factors of a…

How friendly is eco-friendly?

Every single day we are bombarded by someone telling us to be more eco-friendly in our lives – and the choices we make. But can we really be eco-friendly? …

What’s the emissions of your local warlord’s car – and do you care?

Man, these umlungu’s over here really like their big cars. Okay, not all of them. And I have more of a problem with those who don’t drive big cars than those who do. They are all up in arms about the impact on global climate and the emissions by these big trucks – bakkies back…

It’s not always greener on the other side

Everything is green nowadays. It’s the talk of the town. Newspapers are full of the latest green apocalypse heading our way. Bloggers blog green left, right and center – with fonts and pictures to match. Activist are up in arms about green washing and washing our greens. Governments want to govern what green means. The…

We eat meat – get used to it

Being green or protecting wildlife means almost nothing outside US and Europe. There are bigger issues facing people in places like Burundi, Guyana, Yemen and North Korea. They continue to struggle to survive each day. The cheapest bidder always wins when you live off less than $1 a day. And you don’t know if there…

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I know, I haven’t done this for a while. It’s a combination of China and cocktails. Too long visiting one and too long just holding on to the other one. Hum, actually that goes for both of them… But let’s give it a shot.

1. Please sir, may I have some more?

Oh now we know we are in a recession baby. The land of true whiners, (Not-So) Great Britian, are feeling the pinch. And they are taking it out on the kids! Oh deary, deary me. You see, like all financial institutions, The Bank of Mom and Dad has been hit by the credit crunch. And they are just not that much into giving at the moment. Not enough cash to go around. So what did they do? Cut down on the pocket money. Those poor English roses just can’t buy the nice strawberry and cream at Wimbledon anymore. Shame poor little darlings. I don’t think I will spill too many tears on this one. It’s more like the yobs can’t afford the Burberry clothes anymore. Or the beers they drink in the park. Or, the latest craze, knives, anymore. Nah. Don’t feel too sorry for them. Britain has changed into a nanny state many years ago and I am sure the government will find a new way to pamper their little yobs darlings. There is no Great Britain anymore. The only “G” that goes with Britain is “Good god” Britain. And remember to role your eyes when you say it.

2. The law is going to the dogs

This woman called Leona Helmsley let her fortune go to the dogs. You know, she left about $8 billion to look after the poor mutts of this world. Stupid? Of course. Silly? Without a doubt. But now some wise ass Boston College professor claims that “we” are giving almost half of that money and not her. Why? Because the donation is not taxed and therefore indirectly comes from tax money – my money and your money. Really. It’s a stupid argument to make. Yes, there are better ways to spend the almost $4 billion that comes from “us”. But he makes one hell of an assumption to think that government will spend it on anything useful. I would rather let Skippy eat steak every night thanks to Crazy Auntie Leona than spend one single dollar more on a stupid war. Leona might be crazy (and she was as ugly as hell with that all that cosmetic surgery), but not as crazy as some of those people in DC. I have one specific guy in mind… And I really don’t want to give him anything more to play with.

3. A country of Wieners

So Gramm made a bit of a “misspoke”. Calling Americans a country of whiners. I would shut up if I was Gramm. His surname is way to silly to take seriously. I mean really, it sounds very similar to what we will call lightweight in the metric system… Anyway. I actually almost agree with him. But I think he got the wording wrong. It’s not “whiner” it’s “wieners”. For two reasons. Firstly, you guys really like hotdogs. And with baseball season in full swing it makes sense with the wiener sausages and all. But, more seriously, we also use the term “wiener” back home to talk about someone who gets scared easily. Or who falls for some weird scary story. Like in “Donner dude, you are such a wiener. That’s not a shark, it’s a dude with his wienersticking out.” (This is another meaning of wiener – meaning… hum… go check Wikipedia.) I mean really. Scared of Iran? You can’t rule through fear. Because you will end up fighting everyone and hating everyone and not trusting anyone. Get a grip people. You (we) need a new leader with some real leadership. Stop being a such wieners.

4. I don’t give a flying…

Airlines are being hit pretty hard by the high oil prices. So hard that they are now asking people to lobby government on their behalf. Hum. I don’t think so. You start NOT charging me $15 per bag. Or maybe you can start arriving on time – or leaving on time for that matter. And maybe you can serve me crap food instead of no food on these long haul flights. And a drink while I am stuck on the tarmac for a few hours after another “delay”. And just maybe you start upgrading your plane to a post-Nixon grade planes. Or include something more entertaining than barfbags to keep me entertained. And a little more legroom than than a Grade A classroom. And I haven’t even started with you yet American Airlines… You want to know why you can’t compete? Because you are incompetent and know nothing about customer service. We’ll pay more if you pay more attention. Go ask why some of the other airlines like BA, Virgin, Comair (in South Africa), China Air, Air Cameroon and many others can all look after us and still turn a profit. Come back when you have an answer. I won’t hold my breath. But you did give me an idea. Maybe I should start lobbying government to open up the air to some foreign competition. Yes, people might bitch for the loss of “sovereignty” but they’ll very quickly forget once they sit in comfy chairs and bite into a nice juicy BA sandwich. One they didn’t have to pay $5 dollars for.

5. The world got neutered… by President Bush

Sometimes the world is willing to show a bit of guts (or show they have balls) and take on a leader who is truly evil and (possibly) guilty of turning on his own people. Sudan in this case. President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan might just be charged with war crimes committed in Darfur. Makes sense doesn’t it? We know what has been going on over there. Murder, rape and mayhem. And that was on a good day. So the world decided to take a stand. And charge the guy. Of course the guy will say “I am not guilty”. That’s what the court is there for, right? In this case the International Criminal Court. But we won’t see this guy being taken to court – all thanks to President Bush. WTF? You heard me right. Blame President Bush for the ICC not having the teeth to take this guy on. Why? Because the guy is using the same argument President Bush used against the ICC. They both claim that the ICC have no jurisdictionover anything. They don’t recognize the ICC. This was the only court that could tackle Serbian war criminals. But President Bush wants special treatment for US citizens. He argues that everyone should be equal in the eyes of the law – but some are more equal than others. He doesn’t want Americans to be held accountable to this court even if they have committeda crime against humanity or genocide for that matter. Yes, everyone else should be covered by the ICC. Just not Americans. Do you truly believe Americans should have a higher right in this world? Should Americans be above the law? I don’t think we will ever see the day an American will be charged at the ICC. It’s aimed at warmongers and despots. but we have to make sure everyone is covered by the same law. Shouldn’t we? Your argument is like me saying that me and my family should be immune from being charged for theft as we will never do anything like that. Is that okay with you? I promise not to steal… Come on Bush – you are either for us or against us… The Darfur blood is on your hands. What options did you leave us with? Invading as a first option? I guess you don’t like it when people first try to take the legal route? It’s easier to go in with guns blazing isn’t it? You set the precedent. Invade Sudan – even the rest of the world think he is evil and worse than Sadam used to be. Be proud – you and the President of Sudan have something in common… I hope you are proud of your legacy.

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That’s it folks. Have a splendid weekend! Hope that sounded English enough. I am especially sour with them at the moment because they are beating us in cricket. Unheard of, I know…

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‘…Starbucks in Beijing’s Forbidden City is brewing a storm in China, with outraged local media reporting that 70 percent of people would rather not sip the American chain’s frappuccinos in the footsteps of the Son of Heaven.’ Sounds like an article of just a few months back and a recent issue – Starbucks and the controversy in the Forbidden City that led them closing that store a few months back. But in fact, this article is from CNN report of 2000 ‘Starbucks brews storm in China’s Forbidden City’. Seven years later the issue blew up again and forced Starbucks to close the store. In the intervening seven years, Starbucks remained in the Forbidden City and had a very low-key approach in this location. There was no branding on the outside of the store, but once you got inside, you knew you are in Starbucks.

The easy way out was for Starbucks to close the store and expand to other locations. One store won’t damage their business – not with over 12,000 stores globally. But what did they do wrong? The mere presence of Starbucks in the Forbidden City was seen as an insult to Chinese culture and history. It was not about what they were doing or not doing. Everyone agreed that they were a good company, doing good things. But they are not Chinese. Similarly, in many places in Africa, people are starting to complain that Chinese companies are exploiting them and not respecting their culture and history. But don’t think that this just occurs in the developing world or in emerging markets. Remember the US stopping a certain Middle East company investing in the ports in the US a few months ago? This is one of the key challenges facing companies in a globalized world. How do you become local and global while expanding your market?

Are you a multinational or a US/UK/Chinese (fill in whatever country might be disliked in the marketplace) company that operates globally? Too often companies claim to be multinational, but they are driven by the culture of their origin. Very, very few companies are actually MULTInational in the way they operate and are managed. To become multinational they need to ensure that both the ‘numbers’ and the people make sense. It is fine to say that 90% of the people in their African/Asian/etc. offices are from the host country, but this still leaves two questions: (1) the 10% left – are they mostly senior management, and how senior are they? (2) Is the head office comprised of mainly western (mostly white males) or do they reflect where they operate?

How do you bring these cultural influences together to make your company truly MULTInational? It may require melding the Western model, which is largely focused on the individual with say an African or Confucianism culture of East Asia. What is the best way to manage the company, and interact with employees, communities and customers? At the moment, companies are not asking these questions as they think ‘diversity’ is a numbers game about ethnicity and not the way you do business. Until we start seeing ourselves as global AND local in the way we run our business, the idea of being a Chinese company, an American company, or an Arab company will continue to divide businesses and customers.

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I was reading an old blog giving 4 reasons why most consumers don’t care about corporate ethics. It was an interesting read, and I will respond in more detail on the other issues at a later stage. But one issue stood out again – consumers just aren’t willing to pay the price. This typical excuse simply argues that people won’t do something as opposed to delving deeper into why people buy products.

If price is the only issue then Nike would not sell one shoe nor would Starbucks sell one cup of coffee. Okay, so quality has something to do with it, so (some) consumers will consider price and quality when buying a product.

So why do (and did) people in the US still buy American cars? A few years back, American cars were generally more expensive and of lower quality. But people bought them, because they were American-made. Okay so price, quality AND origin can all be part of consumer decision making criteria.

So why do some people buy from from Home Depot instead of Lowe’s? They are equal in price, quality and origin. Well, maybe because the types and quality of services they provide cater to specific consumers. So consumer decisionmaking is about price, quality, origin and service.

And so on, and so on, and so on. There are always many reasons why people buy certain products and not others. We must realize that consumers are not a single robot or unit, but that everyone has their own criteria which they use to when making a decision to buy something. For some, quality ranks highest (that is why people are still paying $200+ for DVD players). For others, environmental impact or health attributes are most important.

Brand value is complex. and by going beyond price and quality to include environmental or social issues in the brand propositioning, helps companies further differentiate their products from competitors. By going forward with corporate responsibility messages, those issues become part of a range of brand elements.

Also, ethically-sourced products don’t necessarily have to cost more–although this is a common misconception. Some products might be more expensive, but corporate responsibility (CR) can also reduce costs and create opportunities. CR is about doing business better – all round. If you are working with your suppliers to make them more efficient, you gain. Paying staff a decent wage can make them more efficient, you gain. By looking after the environment can ensure you still have a product to sell tomorrow, you gain. As each consumer is different, so is each company. We need to acknowledge this and build the ‘corporate responsibility solution’ around what makes business sense for each individual company and product or brand.

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Really people, there are no tigers in Africa. And we don’t have lions walking in the streets of our towns in South Africa. And it doesn’t always rain in England. And Germans do have a sense of humor. And the baseball World Series really do include the best teams in the world. Okay, maybe the last three pushed it a bit too far. But I am really getting sick and tired of ad people getting it so very wrong when they try to paint a global picture. Or when they try to grab the ‘mysterious Africa’ in their ads. I don’t mind them trying to put an African face to it. Hey, I was born in Africa and appreciate it when people use the images of Africa to inspire others. But, really people, just get the basic facts right when you do include Africa or when you try to include an African story into your ad.

One ad that was so bad that I blocked the company name from my mind was up in Back Bay Station in Boston for a few months. (I know it was a financial company.) It tried to tell the story that they can turn the tables on conventional thinking and conventional actions. And one specific ad had a Kenyan Masai (or Maasai) warrior run across the Serengeti. Being chased by a tiger. The ad is trying to tell us that the sometimes the tables are turned, and that they can help you turn the financial tables. BUT the Masai is well known for hunting LIONS for their entry into manhood. LIONS people. NOT tigers. THERE ARE NO TIGERS IN AFRICA. Can someone hunt down the ad guy who had this moment of ‘brilliance’ please. And then feed him to the tigers. Wherever they might be – try Asia as a start…

Sometimes it is simple mistakes. Unknowingly trying to capture a bit of Africa into your product. And that is especially true when the product comes from Africa. Nothing wrong with that. Except when you associate the wrong part of Africa into the product. For example, Teavana recently opened a store close to where I work. (Or I just walked past them almost every day for the last year and never noticed them.) I really like the shop. Good and healthy teas from everywhere around the world. Problem – they have a rooibos tea from Africa. Well, to be more specific, all rooibos tea come from a small area about 100 kilometers from Cape Town. Right at the bottom of Africa. I know this because I come from that area and my brother-in-law still farms with the stuff. The logo that Teavana use is an elephant. You know, elephants are all over Africa. Hum, not really. No elephant at all in that area. None, nada, zilch, zero. Never had any elephant. Never will. But it doesn’t stop there. The bloody elephant they use is not an African elephant. It is an Indian elephant. The smaller ears gave it away, you see. Teavana’s slogan is ‘Opening the Doors to Health, Wisdom, & Happiness’. I am not happy and therefore not healthy. No wisdom to be found in their messy logo for their rooibos. And I’ll close the door with that.

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