Shifting Culture, Selling Product

Getting someone to buy a new alternative product that is healthier for them or better for the planet seems like a no-brainer. It should be easy, right? People should flock, shouldn’t they? Then why don’t they always?

Why can’t Toyota get everyone to drive a Prius? Why don’t more people take mass transit? Why don’t I drink more water?

Without being overly hyperbolic, it’s because we’re addicted to comfort and routine.

In our SmartLiving study we found that when a consumer decides to replace a conventional trusted product with a new alternative product, it is a much bigger deal than when a consumer shifts between brands. This shift is more seismic…MORE

Nanotubes for you and me

Nanotubes have been around forever and  they’re even used in things like sunscreen and beauty creams though the health risks are largely unknown.

All that aside, nanotudes might be the fix to the energy storage conundrum that holds modern energy back. Energy storage is the biggest hurdle that has yet to be cleared in making modern energy sources viable solutions to our hungry e-appetites. When the wind isn’t blowing or the sun isn’t shining, there needs to be reserve power that comes from somewhere. That’s why our power grids depend on coal and natural gas which, while dirty, are dependable. Likewise, the thing that holds back e-cars is energy storage.

This new nanotube energy storage technology could change everything. Keep an eye on it.

Understanding the conversation around sustainability in the outdoor industry—manufacturers

The Kickstand 2009 Outdoor Industry Sustainability Audit takes a journalistic approach to understanding and accurately reporting the conversation that is occurring around the concept of sustainability in the outdoor industry.

We seek to provide a baseline understanding around what sustainability means to three segments—manufacturers, retailers, and consumers—and uncover best practices, motivation, and opportunities. We seek to find a collective level of understanding of the efforts, perceptions, and the resulting actions around the concept. read more…

Mapping the ‘Green Conversation’ in the Outdoor Industry

Kickstand carried out a portion of our 2009 Outdoor Industry Sustainability Audit at the Summer Outdoor Retailer Trade Show in Salt Lake City, UT July 21-24, 2009.

Research with manufacturers, retailers, and consumers continues as we seek to uncover the pulse and baseline conversation around sustainability in the outdoor industry. We will begin to share insights on or before September 15.

Our thanks to Outdoor Retailer, the OR Daily, and participants in this phase of the research.

Here’s another article about our project from our friends at Elephant Journal.

There’s no such thing as sustainability

Our friend Yvon Chouinard, Patagonia founder, recently did an interview with FastCompany magazine in their July/August 09 issue. Great quote for those companies out there that are having a hard time starting down the path of sustainable-izing operations:

“There’s no such thing as sustainability. It’s just kind of a path you get on and try–each day try to make it better.”

We talk to companies everyday that are afraid to take that first, second, or third step because they don’t want to be perceived as jumping on the bandwagon or look like greenwashing posers. We encourage our clients to take those steps and then talk about them because by preaching what you practice, you encourage others to follow your lead.

Working towards being better, in every way, is something that we should all work towards, always.

Crowdsourcing, Co-creation, and Crowdcasting oh my

For things like marketing, branding, and product development social media (Twitter, Facebook, etc) is transforming all the norms. While many brands are dipping their toes in and trying to understand how to best use these new-ish tools, at the heart of what social media can do for a brand you find crowdsourcing, co-creation, and crowdcasting.

Here are a couple examples of how brands (or in these examples, authors) can use social media and social networks as real tools.

John Winsor, social/cultural researcher and author, is using crowdsourcing and co-creation in writing his new book, Flipped.

Nicole Helget uses crowdcasting tapping into her fans for ideas on her next book while at the same time creating a community around herself and her work.

The Daily Me

In this article, Nicholas Kristof brings up some excellent points that we don’t hear people talking about–how current media allows users the ability to surround themselves only with things that matter to them. Could this be an unanticipated out come of social media?

Kickstand thinks that this is an especially interesting issue as the wave of social media rises. Our exposure to issues outside of our field of experience or comfort bubble can be, if we want them to be, very limited.

Maybe we don’t need to talk about or fully understand this social phenomenon now as social media develops into what it will ultimately be. But being aware of this may be a differentiator or opportunity…


Some of the obituaries these days aren’t in the newspapers but are for the newspapers. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer is the latest to pass away, save for a remnant that will exist only in cyberspace, and the public is increasingly seeking its news not from mainstream television networks or ink-on-dead-trees but from grazing online.

When we go online, each of us is our own editor, our own gatekeeper. We select the kind of news and opinions that we care most about…More

Transparent, the next green

The concept of green is so last year. But is green marketing dead?

Nope. The game has just changed.

The new green is transparent. If you’re not really green and you say you are, you’re out of the game. If you really are green you need to put it in terms that people understand. The smoke and mirrors stuff is gone.

Social media and the current economic situation are good things for the sustainability movement. They are forcing competition. And here in the good ‘ol USA, competition is how things rise to the top.

So, in a nutshell, Mr. Greentech and Mrs. Cleantech owners, it’s great that you have a good green product. Really. But now you have to learn how to sell it among all the clutter and competition. It isn’t enough to say it’s green. It has to really compete.

And you, Mr. and Mrs. Greenwashers, you’re so last week. If you’re going to use sustainability to sell something, do it with authenticity. Your customers have gotten smarter.

One Step Forward?

The fact that this thing ended up on the street as litter is secondary. The first question that comes to me is what are you willing to sacrifice to make the world a better place? Obviously, not the morning cup of coffee in a disposable cup with a cup holder. Obviously not convenience.


It’s always asked of us to be smarter consumers. And conscious consumers ask the same of the companies they buy from…as long as it doesn’t get in the way of convenience.

If this coffee shop didn’t supply cup holders would it erck customers enough to not buy coffee from them again? If it did, the question remains, what are you (coffee shop owner) willing to sacrifice to make the world a better place? Is it worth a customer? Is there a pay off to alienating a customer in order to make the world a better place?

What Marketers Can Learn From Obama’s Campaign

Via By Al Ries

Take a relatively unknown man. Younger than all of his opponents. Black. With a bad-sounding name. Consider his first opponent: the best-known woman in America, connected to one of the most successful politicians in history. Then consider his second opponent: a well-known war hero with a long, distinguished record as a U.S. senator.

It didn’t matter. Barack Obama had a better marketing strategy than either of them. “Change.” 

Nazi propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels was the master of the “big lie.” According to Goebbels, “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.” 

The opposite of that strategy is the “big truth.” If you tell the truth often enough and keep repeating it, the truth gets bigger and bigger, creating an aura of legitimacy and authenticity. 

Clinton’s ‘solutions’ fizzle
What word did Hillary Clinton own? First she tried “experience.” When she saw the progress Mr. Obama was making, she shifted to “Countdown to change.” Then when the critics pointed out her me-too approach, she shifted to “Solutions for America.”

What word is associated with Ms. Clinton today? I don’t know, do you?

Then there’s John McCain. An Oct. 26 cover story in The New York Times Magazine was titled “The Making (and Remaking and Remaking) of the Candidate.” The visual listed some of the labels the candidate was associated with: “Conservative. Maverick. Hero. Straight talker. Commander. Bipartisan conciliator. Experienced leader. Patriot.” Subhead: “When a Campaign Can’t Settle on a Central Narrative, Does It Imperil Its Protagonist?”

Actually, Mr. McCain did settle on a slogan, “Country first,” but it was way too late in the campaign and it was a slogan that had little relevance to the average voter.

Tactically, both Ms. Clinton and Mr. McCain focused their messages on “I can do change better than my opponent can do change.”

“Better” never works in marketing. The only thing that works in marketing is “different.” When you’re different, you can pre-empt the concept in consumers’ minds so your competitors can never take it away from you.

The ultimate slogan
Look at what “driving” has done for BMW. Are there vehicles that are more fun to drive than BMWs? Probably, but it doesn’t matter. BMW has pre-empted the “driving” position in the mind.

The sad fact is that there are only a few dozen brands that own a word in the mind and most of them don’t even use their words as slogans. Mercedes-Benz owns “prestige,” but doesn’t use the word as a slogan. Toyota owns “reliability,” but doesn’t use the word as a slogan. Coca-Cola owns “the real thing,” but doesn’t use the words as a slogan. Pepsi-Cola owns “Pepsi generation,” but doesn’t use the words as a slogan.

As a matter of fact, most brands follow the Pepsi pattern. Every time they get a new CMO or a new advertising agency, they change the slogan. Since 1975, BMW has used one slogan: “The ultimate driving machine.” Since 1975, Pepsi-Cola has used these advertising slogans:

  • 1975: “For those who think young.”
  • 1978: “Have a Pepsi day.”
  • 1980: “Catch that Pepsi spirit.”
  • 1982: “Pepsi’s got your taste for life.”
  • 1983: “Pepsi now.”
  • 1984: “The choice of a new generation.”
  • 1989: “A generation ahead.”
  • 1990: “Pepsi: The choice of a new generation.”
  • 1992: “Gotta have it.”
  • 1993: “Be young. Have fun. Drink Pepsi.”
  • 1995: “Nothing else is a Pepsi.”
  • 2002: “Generation next.”
  • 2003: “Think young. Drink young.”
  • 2004: “It’s the cola.”

Thirty-three years ago when the “Ultimate driving machine” campaign started, BMW was the 11th-largest-selling European imported vehicle in the U.S. market. Today it’s No. 1.

Thirty-three years ago, Pepsi-Cola was the No. 2-selling cola in the U.S. market. Today, many advertising slogans later, it’s still No. 2.

The average Pepsi-Cola advertising slogan lasts just two years and two months. The average chief marketing officer lasts just two years and two months. The average corporate advertising campaign in BusinessWeek lasts just two years and six months.

The Obama campaign has a lot to teach the advertising community.

1. Simplicity. About 70% of the population thinks the country is going in the wrong direction, hence Obama’s focus on the word “change.” Why didn’t talented politicians like Ms. Clinton and John Edwards consider using this concept?

Based on my experience, in the boardrooms of corporate America “change” is an idea that is too simple to sell. Corporate executives are looking for advertising concepts that are “clever.” For all the money being spent, corporate executives want something they couldn’t have thought of themselves. Hopefully, something exceedingly clever.

Here is a sampling of slogans from a recent issue of BusinessWeek:

  • Chicago Graduate School of Business: “Triumph in your moment of truth.”
  • Darden School of Business: “High touch. High tone. High energy.”
  • “Your future is looking up.”
  • Zurich: “Because change happenz.”
  • CDW: “The right technology. Right away.”
  • Hitachi: “Inspire the next.”
  • NEC: “Empowered by innovation.”
  • Deutsche Bank: “A passion to perform.”
  • SKF: “The power of knowledge engineering.”

Some of these slogans might be clever, some might be inspiring and some might be descriptive of the company’s product line, but none will ever drive the company’s business in the way that “change” drove the Obama campaign. They’re not simple enough.

2. Consistency. What’s wrong with 90% of all advertising? Companies try to “communicate” when they should be trying to “position.”

Mr. Obama’s objective was not to communicate the fact that he was an agent of change. In today’s environment, every politician running for the country’s highest office was presenting him or herself as an agent of change. What Mr. Obama actually did was to repeat the “change” message over and over again, so that potential voters identified Mr. Obama with the concept. In other words, he owns the “change” idea in voters’ minds.

In today’s overcommunicated society, it takes endless repetition to achieve this effect. For a typical consumer brand, that might mean years and years of advertising and hundreds of millions of dollars.

Most companies don’t have the money, don’t have the patience and don’t have the vision to achieve what Mr. Obama did. They jerk from one message to another, hoping for a magic bullet that will energize their brands. That doesn’t work today. That is especially ineffective for a politician because it creates an aura of vacillation and indecisiveness, fatal qualities for someone looking to move up the political ladder.

The only thing that works today is the BMW approach. Consistency, consistency, consistency — over decades, if not longer.

But not with a dull slogan. Hitachi has been “inspiring the next” for as long as I can remember, but with little success.

Effective slogans needs to be simple and grounded in reality. What next has Hitachi ever inspired? Red ink, maybe. In the past 10 years, Hitachi has had sales of $786.9 billion and managed to lose $5.1 billion. When you put your corporate name on everything, as Hitachi does, it’s difficult to make money because it’s difficult to make the brand stand for anything.

3. Relevance. “If you’re losing the battle, shift the battlefield” is an old military axiom that applies equally as well to marketing. By his relentless focus on change, Mr. Obama shifted the political battlefield. He forced his opponents to devote much of their campaign time discussing changes they proposed for the country. And how their changes would differ from the changes that he proposed.

All the talk about “change” distracted both Ms. Clinton and Mr. McCain from talking about their strengths: their track records, their experience and their relationships with world leaders.

As you probably know, Mr. Obama was selected as Advertising Age’s Marketer of the Year by the executives attending the Association of National Advertisers’ annual conference in Orlando last month. But one wonders if these CMOs are getting the message.

As one marketing executive said: “I look at it as something that we can all learn from as marketers. To see what he’s done, to be able to create a social network and do it in a way where it’s created the tools to let people get engaged very easily. It’s very easy for people to participate.”

Whatever happened to “change”?