The Green Marketing Manifesto


Having blagged a free copy of John Grant‘s new book, the least I can do is write something about it – so here goes.

Described as ‘a roadmap on how to organize green marketing effectively and sustainably’, it is much more than a manual for cosmetic ‘green’ branding and tokenistic CSR exercises (the kind of thing John refers to as ‘greenwashing’.) Rather, it is a fireworks-box of ideas, offering a structured and practical approach. In other words, it’s the kind of book which leaves you thinking ‘hey, we could actually do some of this stuff’ with some grounded, practical concepts for making strategic decisions.
Crucially, being a manifesto, the text gives the ‘huge challenge’ of promoting ‘new lifestyle ideas…to mitigate the effects of climate change’ some emotional fuel – but without doomsaying or hectoring. It left me strongly agreeing that the marketing discipline has a major role to play in making significantly more sustainable lifestyles appealing and mainstream.

The recommended strategic approach is a ‘blending of three agendas; sustainability, Web 2.0 and New Marketing’, the latter being the bundle of trends and possibilities for alternatives to traditional advertising explored in John’s previous work. This makes for a compelling blend – I’d say the book could be enjoyed and used from any of the three perspectives.

Although marketing should not be just about image – I’d have to say this book packages itself very nicely, covered in yard-thick cardboard with bits in, and produced using environmentally-friendly printing processes including vegetable inks (something we’re moving to at Edge Hill University.)

Having read the artifact and basked in its glow of freebieness, what should I do with it now? ‘Reuse’ is one aspect of sustainability, so I reckon I’ll pass it on to that superbly effective centre for facilitating reuse and recycling of thoughts – an academic library.

You can buy the book from your eco-friendly supplier of choice, using its pheromone spoor-trace ISBN13: 9780470723241, and/or read the accompanying Greenormal blog

‘If it’s written on a sweater then I’d better not do it’

Big thanks to Rob ‘Topsyturvydom/Whirligig of Time’ Spence for sending me this article about higher education ‘mottos’ in the US (likely to be referred to as slogans or straplines over here.) A similar article from 2005 gives further food for thought.

A slogan can seem like a good idea – distilling some of the essence of an institution, creating what US consultancy Stamats call “a trust mark, a warrant, and a promise,” as well as “a word a college or university owns in the prospect’s mind.” But how worthwhile is the quest to find one?

It is possible to make radical misjudgements – some of those cited in the articles seem a bit batty with the luxury if hindsight: ‘From Here You Can Go Anywhere’ doesn’t make ‘here’ seem very appealing; ‘A College-Like University’ would be unlikely to be adopted by this institution; ‘Do it With Your Head’ could possibly give rise to hilarity.
The Christian missions of many US institutions takes the slogan-reader into semiotic territory that may feel unfamiliar to some: ‘Unwrap the Universe, Peel Back its Shroud’ from Trinity Western was enticingly apocalyptic and theologically interesting, and I’d love to know how it was interpreted by students, staff, parents etc.

But should any university (or Edge Hill in particular) have one? I don’t think the answer is automatically ‘yes’. There is a glibness and redundancy to many – of course we offer ‘great campus, great careers’ – which university wouldn’t? They have a kind of ‘marketingness’ about them, by being so direct – simply stating ‘leading the way in X’ doesn’t make it true. And some of the most powerful current brands don’t have them – Google, for instance, doesn’t need a slogan about ‘easy effective searches’ or somesuch, it just delivers its service well with nice design and a consistent personality – better things to pay attention too, maybe.

The next EHU branding exercise (for our 2009 student recruitment) uses a concept that can be expressed in many ways, a single word, a tone, a style of imagery… but we’re going strapless.

PS – There’s a small gift for the first person to identify in a comment the source of the post title…

Greener marketing

Along with many organisations, we’re doing lots of things in a greener way than before. Our low carbon funding is a big example; the appearance of plastic bottle banks a more modest one. But what can marketing do? We’re trying for greener production of our Prospectus – the annual launch of tons of paper on the world offers scope for greener materials and processes. Freebies like carrier bags and pens can be degradable and recycled. And no more badges made from depleted uranium could be a good move. But these feel like small beer somehow – maybe the marketing process itself can be greened…

I’m looking forward to reading John Grant’s new book, The Green Marketing Manifesto, to see if it sparks any ideas…

Book Club blues

Just had a nice letter from some VIth-formers at a College in the region. They have formed a book club and aim to ‘improve language skills, analytical, critical and debating skills’ by reading books such as ‘Not Without My Sisters’ and ‘A Clockwork Orange’. They’re asking for sponsorship to the tune of £70, in return for which we’d get some visibility at the College and even the opportunity to ‘join in a Book Club meeting!’

It’s great to hear of people actually wanting to read (in a week when I heard the sad tale of a student missing a seminar as they hadn’t managed to read two books (!) in a week (!!) by those impenetrable heavyweights, Agatha Christie and Raymond Chandler.) £70 isn’t a great deal of money, but as a university is a charity running on earmarked public funds such things aren’t really possible. Technically it might be illegal (perhaps not on an Enron scale…) and vast numbers of similar requests would be hard to handle.

But it just seems sad to let it go. I may bung them a derisory amount myself. Other than that, any ideas?