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E4C#6 How Sustainable Brands Can Avoid Green Marketing Cliches – Park Howell, Park&Co

As a triple bottom line business, telling your product’s sustainability story is as much as art as it is a unique selling proposition. Park Howell, of Park&Co, shares with us his insights on the art of sustainability story telling and highlights some of the brand curdling green marketing cliches we should avoid if we want to stand out as a sustainable brand.

In this interview we cover:

  • Some of the most glaring examples of green wash
  • How a mining company can have a compelling sustainability story
  • What companies are doing a great job with their green messaging
  • Whether green marketing is truly dead

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About Park Howell

park howellPark Howell, president and owner of Park&Co, and phoenix-based sustainable marketing firm, as been in the advertising and marketing business for nearly 25 years, and last year received the coveted “Ad Person of the Year” Award from the American Advertising Federation of Metropolitan Phoenix. Park&Co is about more more than just award-winning ad campaigns. The agency creates movements that ignites the growth of people, products, companies and causes that dare to make the world a better place. Their sustainability work includes the invention of Water – Use It Wisely, the world’s largest water conservation outreach effort; and ecodriving program that was recently launched through Coca-Cola’s 25,000 driver fleet; Goodwill of Central Arizona, which has become that fastest growing Goodwill in the world under the agency’s marketing and sales guidance; and the sustainability story behind Resolution Copper Mining. Park&Co opened in 1995 and can be found at Parkandco.com.

Check out Park Howell’s blog at www.parkhowell.com or connect with Park on Twitter @ParkHowell, or on Facebook.


  • Park Howell – Sustainable Storyteller
  • The New Rules of Green Marketing
  • Green Marketing is over, Let’s Move On


  • Got Green? and 10 Other Brand-Curdling Clichés to Avoid in Your Green Marketing – Downloadable PPT on Slideshare
  • Do You Suffer from Gang Green? – Downloadable PDF

Companies Mentioned

  • Ecototality
  • Resolution Copper
  • EcoDriving
  • Frito Lay
  • Patagonia
  • Goodwill
  • Green Chamber of Commerce
  • Greenpeace
  • Global Water
  • World Wildlife Fund
  • Chlorox Greenworks
  • Method – Natural Cleaners
  • Purina Dog Chow

People Mentioned

  • Jacquie Ottman
  • Joel Makower


Raw Transcript

00:02 Lorna Li: This is Episode 6 of Entrepreneurs for a Change. If you like this podcast, please subscribe to our mailing list at www.entrepreneursforachange.com. Are you ready to be the change? If so, you’ve come to the right place. You’re about to join a movement of entrepreneurs, who are empowering people, saving the planet and turning their passion into profits while creating the lifestyle of their dreams. If you don’t believe us, check out our website at www.entrepreneursforachange.com, a place where you can be inspired, mentored and supported by a tribe of change-making entrepreneurs just like you.

00:39 LL: Hi there. This is Lorna Li, Editor-in-chief of Green Marketing TV and Entrepreneurs for a Change. We’re here today with Park Howell, a sustainability storyteller. Park is a sustainable marketer Green business communications consultant and owner of the sustainable marketing firm, Park&Co, located in Phoenix, Arizona. Park&Co ignites the growth of people, products, companies and causes that dare to make the world a better place. Today, Park is going to help us become better sustainability storytellers so we can be authentic in communicating the environmental benefits of our products or services. He’s going to show us some examples of companies that are doing a great job with green marketing and companies that are perpetrating the dreaded green wash. For more information about Park, check out www.parkhowell.com.

01:26 LL: So, Park, I really appreciate you joining us today. I would love to find out more about what you’re doing these days. I know that you’re the sustainable storyteller so can you tell me more about what you do and what your company, Park&Co, does?

01:41 Park Howell: Sure. We are an advertising firm essentially. We started in 1995, but most of our work or an awful lot of our work has been in the environmental or cost marketing side of life. We started with a campaign called Water – Use it Wisely. It was a small water conservation campaign that was established in Mesa and it has since grown throughout North America with more than 400 private and public partners that used portions of the campaign. So, that was the one first campaign that launched us into the environmental or green marketing side of life. So, I think it’s safe to say we were doing this work long before Green became kind of the in thing to be talking about in the past few years. So, it was a natural niche for us to grow on. We’ve done a lot of work with Clean Air campaigns, Resolutions Copper Mining and I know a lot of people question how can a mining company be sustainable and they’re doing a remarkable job so I’d be happy to talk a little bit more about that.

02:36 PH: WithCoca-Cola, we were working with an eco driving program of training over 25, 000 of their drivers on how to drive more eco-friendly which is going to save them fuel, cost and emissions. So, those are the kinds of clients that we work with when we seek out and we try to bring more of a storytelling aspect of green marketing where consumers can actually embrace it. It touches them. It’s not just talking about the features and benefits of green marketing but it digs deeper into what companies and people and causes are really doing to make a difference in providing a better product, a product that’s very accessible, is affordable and actually, has a byproduct of being good for the planet.

03:19 LL: So, you guys are a marketing communications agency, are you full service? What do you intend to offer your clients?

03:26 PH: Yes, we are a full service so we handle traditional advertising; marketing, TV, radio, printout, or we do all creative in-house. We handle online and build a lot of websites, social media, digital marketing, media planning and buying, all in-house. But the only thing we don’t do in-house is public relations. So, we surround ourselves with some really tough firms in Phoenix depending on who the client is and what the cost is to help us on the PR side or the community affairs side. Those are two areas we don’t handle in-house but if it comes down to crafting and telling a compelling story about your product or brand, that’s what we do.

04:03 LL: So, do you guys also walk your talk as well? One of the biggest challenges that I think for a lot of businesses is wanting to green their marketing so that involves a green storytelling component. But then, there’s also the whole question of how do you make sure that all the things that you’re doing that are related to your green marketing campaign are also environmentally sustainable, soy-based inks, 100% recycled paper, is that what you guys do as well for your clients?

04:29 PH: Yeah. The soy-based inks and recycled paper have been around a long time. And I really think most, if not all reputable marketing firms, whether green marketing firms or not are using those. That has been adopted pretty much full scale across the industry. We do a lot of recycling like everybody else. We have a really solid recycling program. We print as little paper internally as we possibly can so we keep our media to being digital through iPads and mobile devices so we don’t end up with reams and reams of paper flowing out of the agency. We’re working with ECOtality. I don’t know if you’re familiar with them. They’re going to be coming in and putting in two charging stations here at the agency for the new electric cars. And we will open up our parking stalls which we are right next to a very popular restaurant and retail area and we usually have to shoo people out of our parking spaces to allow our own folks and customers here, but we’re going to open up two parking spaces just for electric cars that they could come and get a charge here at the agency.

05:30 PH: So, we do a lot of things a lot of agencies do and we’re trying to find more interesting ways to share with the world the ways we are trying to be as eco-conscious as possible. And we also learn by doing so a year and a half ago, I started buying carbon offsets. There’s a company in town that helps us try to figure out through our video production, TV production, what kind of carbon footprint we were really creating. So, we start buying some carbon offsets and that’s been kind of an interesting experience. Then, finally, we have a work-flex program so that folks can work from home. That especially helps them with their kids, and the folks with the younger kids, but it keeps the cars off the road. I live a mile from the office and have ever since we opened up here, so I try to reduce my commute as much as possible and I’m in the process of identifying what kind of electric car that I would like to have here because I’d like the perfect model for electric vehicle here in Phoenix.

06:22 LL: Wow. That sounds like a lot of fun. I’m so excited to see whether electric cars are increasingly adopted. I think that one of the biggest challenges are in electric cars are where on earth do you recharge, you know? So that is cool.

06:37 PH: Let me just start. They have a program here in Phoenix. I think it was one of their test markets where ECOtality is doing a great job of starting to get these in place but they may still be six months away from it. So I think we’re going to get ours in by September. It’ll just be easy for the local community to come by and plug in a wall.

06:54 LL: That’s so cool. So tell me about some of your clients, because I noticed you have some big brands on your client list, and one of the things that really struck me is that you represented a couple of mining companies, it seems, like Resolution Copper Mining and Rio Tinto. I’m kind of curious because when I think about extractive industries, I think of environmental aggregation and human rights abuses. I was just down in Ecuador, visiting the area that was impacted by the Chevron Texaco oil spill. So you know, terrible suffering there. So I’m kind of curious how a mining company would have a sustainability story? It seems a bit contradictory.

07:33 PH: Well, yeah, it is a very great question. Resolution Copper is an LLC. They’re a subsidiary of Rio Tinto who is out of Europe, and so Resolution Copper operates right here in Arizona. They’re looking at… We’ve got a copper deposit that some say could supply 20% of North America’s copper supply for the next 60 years, and it’s up in a very rich copper region that is northeast of Phoenix. Now in the past, copper has been associated with strip mining, so you end up with these large scars on the earth, and that’s what people equate to, especially with copper mining. Well, Resolution Copper is working on perfecting a process called block caving, where they actually dig down. They go a mile down below the ore and they pull the ore up from underneath and bring it up. Over the course of the 60 years that this is in process, there will be some subsidence but nothing to the nature that you would see with the strip mining.

08:30 PH: So the question then becomes, in our greening removal industries, copper plays a significant role in being able to make electric cars and batteries, and recharging stations, and so forth. So that copper has to come from somewhere. Arizona has a rich copper tradition and it just is only natural to bring those jobs and that sort of revenue to Arizona. In the most sustainable green approach to copper mining, the world is literally ever saved, they will be breaking new ground part of the time with this block caving. So they are taking every precaution to become the most sustainable green copper miners, as green as you can be in the copper industry. That’s what intrigued us about it. When they came to us a few years ago, sure we had reservations because we knew we were going to get questions just like that. How could a green marketer work with a company like Resolution Copper?

09:20 PH: When we found what they’re actually doing through reclaiming water, restoring it and sending it out to the farmers, plus their plans, the future for block caving, we were naturals for them to be able to tell their story because they are doing a really great job. Yes, when you go and you mine copper, there’s going to be some environmental degradation, but they are doing it as minimally as possible, and kind of changing the rules and inventing new ways of extracting copper. And for our renewable industry and green business coming up, we have to have that copper. And it’s much better coming from Arizona in America, than having to go to Brazil and other places to purchase that and bring it in.

10:00 LL: You know I think we really have to start somewhere, and I think it’s really important to consider best of breed companies when you’re looking at sustainability and business, especially if you are interested in socially responsible investing. I’m always looking at, “Okay, what kind of businesses can I invest in that actually are trying to pioneer a better model, a more environmentally sustainable model?” Because at the end of the day, it’s really difficult to be 100% eco-friendly. I mean we can, we’re…

10:32 PH: Nothing is.

10:34 LL: Yeah. Nothing is. So at least, we have to look at the spectrum of green, and hope that more and more businesses start to veer towards the sustainability paradigm, as opposed to the “Thrash the earth, we don’t care, we just want a short-term profit” paradigm.

10:49 PH: That’s exactly right. And you know, this green sector, we’re still all very much pioneers in it. I mean, it’s just a decade old. I know folks have been doing it sooner, but it’s just really gotten traction within the last five or six years. So companies like Resolution… In contrast to that Frito-Lay, who I… They’re one of my superstars because of what they’re attempting to do in re-marketing with their Sun Chips brand and so forth, and yet, they created this bag, the compostable bag and then they took it on the chin that it wasn’t really that compostable, it had to be under the right conditions and so forth. So they’ve gone back and tried to re-engineer that bag. Some folks would call them greenwashers and I don’t. I say they’re trying at least, and they’re sharing their story with the world and their mistakes with the world, but that gets them that much better. At least they’re doing something and they’re not doing something just out of trying to be green to catch a trend. They’re actually ahead of the game, and those pioneers are going to take a few arrows in the back. Resolution Copper’s the same way. They are pioneering some new ways to attract copper. It’s absolutely fascinating the technology that will be coming out of their minds as well.

11:57 LL: Yes. So tell me what is the difference between green marketing and greenwash. I know there’s a lot of critics of green marketing saying that all it is is another form of greenwash. So, do you have certain kinds of guidelines or ways in which you can determine, “Oh, that’s definitely greenwash.” You know they’re really trying. They’re trying their best and they’re trying to become more sustainable and create biodegradable products. So what’s your litmus test?

12:27 PH: Yes. You know it comes down to authenticity. Nobody’s perfect. No company is perfect and there never will be. And you said it earlier, “No product is absolutely green.” There’s an environmental impact to everything we do. Just having this conversation, there is an environmental impact what they call generation and as they place, you produce the videos with the power that gives your… So, none of these…

12:48 LL: The servers, the electricity. Yeah. Totally.

12:51 PH: Yeah, but it’s a lot greener than me flying out to see you and spend a day doing this interview and then flying back and that, so we are making progress in lots of areas. I had a great conversation with Jacquie Ottman the other day and I know you know her. She’s a writer and I’m going to give her a quick plug in her book because I think this is a great book.

13:07 LL: It is a great book, I’ve read it.

13:09 PH: Have you read it? Yeah. These are great guidelines to let people know and what she was…

13:14 LL: It’s called The New Rules of Green Marketing?

13:16 PH: Yeah. The New Rules of Green Marketing: Strategies, Tools, and Inspiration for Sustainable Branding. And what’s great about it is it’s… We’re talking of sustainable brands next week which I’ll be eager to see her again. She and I had a long dialog beside… I’m going to show you here in a second a sort of fun PowerPoint I put together. Now, it’s about greenwashing and I think she and I are on the same mind that greenwashers aren’t sinners because we believe the vast majority of people that are accused of greenwashing and are greenwashing are, maybe, not doing it out of the intent to confuse people. They just don’t know any better.

13:52 PH: It’s inadvertent green messaging and so they may be saying something that they think is going to be really appealing to their audience and they do with all authenticity, thinking that they are really backing this up only to find themselves maybe not doing it, as opposed to some of them that blatantly comes out and make some crazy green claim because they think it’s going to sell more product even though they know that they are not actually following up on this. There’s a little bit of that going out but we feel it’s lack of education that are causing communicators to inadvertently greenwash and raising to the market, taking some shortcuts before they have all their ducks in a row. That is causing the greatest stir in greenwashing and we think through education and asking people to slow down a little bit and get better at telling their story and being able to back up their stories through their operations, that this greenwashing will subside and you will get more accurate stories resonating with customers.

14:52 LL: You know it’s interesting. I was actually talking with Joel Makower the other day and he was telling me too that sometimes it’s really difficult for companies to tell a sustainability story because they are afraid that by attempting to tell the sustainability story around a particular product like blue jeans, for example, it will highlight all the other aspects of the product creations that are really not so green. So it becomes complicated and a lot of businesses and enterprises are just a little reluctant to open that Pandora’s box.

15:29 PH: Well, they have to get over that. It’s the dialog that starts the change, right? So have you been to Patagonia site? I think they do a marvelous job of showing the cradle-to-grave of where their products come from and they even raise their hand and say, “No, we understand that maybe we’re not doing the best we can be in some of our manufacturing or where our cotton is coming from but we are opening up the dialog and in some cases, putting it out to the crowd for possible resolutions to those problems.” So I think admitting there’s a problem first and foremost is that first step. It’s like the alcoholic, you know, “Hey, you got to put me into treatment.” That’s the first step to getting better. If we don’t have those conversations and some of those conversations lead to a lot of people point out as greenwashing, then we’re not getting anywhere. So we got to have the conversations and even if it’s not perfect, at least they’re trying to perfect it and it will never be perfect. But boy, with every incremental change we get to being that much more sustainable, the better it is for everybody.

16:27 LL: Yeah, I definitely agree. To look at it from the perspective of the continuum of sustainability in business is a great starting place. Interestingly enough, Joel came out with a blog post, “Green marketing is over.” You know let’s get over it. Let me get…

16:45 PH: Yeah. I read about t. Yeah. It’s like, “Green marketing is dead. Let’s get over it and move on.”

16:49 LL: “Green marketing is over. Let’s move on.” I’m really curious to hear your thoughts about the whole “Green marketing is dead” perspective. I mean… I mean should we just give up?


17:03 PH: No. We shouldn’t give up. It’s, you know, it’s… I suppose it’s how you define green marketing and it’s the shallowness, I think, of marketers and manufacturers that raise the market with a green story just because they think it’s the latest trend. And so that’s bad for everybody in our line of work that is simply trying to amplify conversations around being sustainable and I’ve got to… This is a good time I would like to show you this “Got Green?” PowerPoint that I did.

17:35 LL: Absolutely. So yeah, I just kind of want to interject here though I think his perspective was we can spend our time trying to come up with a sustainability story even if it is authentic but at the end of the day, consumers are not choosing with their dollars and “green products” are still no more than 2% of market share so, is it even worth it? So yeah, I would love to see what you have in your deck and any thoughts that you have around the value of communicating greenness in the hopes that consumers will vote with their dollars and flock to buy your greener, possibly more expensive products.

18:18 PH: Yeah. Well, and before I jump in to this, a great point, yeah, we do a lot of work with Goodwill Central Arizona and have for many, many years. And we did a research study on why do people donate and drop off their items to goodwill. In Arizona, they don’t have a pick up, so you have to go out of your way to the store to drop them off. And what we found out is that altruism was way down the list as to why they donate. You know, Goodwill takes those materials, they sell them and then they help train, put people back to work, not just within Goodwill but throughout the community. It’s a huge workforce development program. The people on drop-off, they use items for that. They drop it off at the convenience. Where’s the closest place that I can drop this? Get in and out as quickly as possible and move on. It goes back to speaking of what drives all consumers. Is the product good? Is the product convenient, easy for me to use? Is the product affordable and oh, by the way, does it save the planet? That’s a nice little by-product but it’s not going to be the main reason why I buy it.

19:15 PH: So it goes back to manufacturers and marketers of products have to first think about their supply chain, their materials, where they get that, how they could process it as sustainable as possible which is good for their company, the efficiency and the profitability of the company. Market that product, makes sure it’s still really good to the consumer at an affordable price and then go and tell the sustainability story, but it becomes a by-product of providing a really exceptional product. And that has never changed. And so I think maybe that is what Joel is alluding to, he may be is alluding to the surface in nature, the lack of depths in so many communicators in our line of work that aren’t taking the time to really understand how to market and tell us a sustainable story. So that was the impetus for me to create this deck that I did for the Phoenix Green Chamber of Commerce webinar couple of weeks ago and Jacquie had often called me on it, and she was a little upset at me because she said, “You’re just making fun and taking pot-shots of green marketing.” And I said, “No, Jacquie. What I’m really trying to do is underscore the important job that we have as sustainable marketers and put the manufacturers and clients that we represent to tell authentic compelling stories to help educate the public on what they can do would be making as much as a difference as much as what our product is doing to make as much of a difference.” So this was kind of way of having some fun and highlighting the surface-y nature of our business and we all got to get better at telling the story.

20:45 LL: Very cool. So let’s dive into your deck.

20:47 PH: Alright, so I’m going to be just jumping from screen to screen here but I call it “Got Green?” And it’s the “Got green? And Other Brand-Curdling Clichés of Green Marketing.” And I use the “Got Green?” because the “Got Milk?” campaign is… It’s everywhere. Wonderful campaign, brilliant work, on behalf of the Dairy Farmers of California but aren’t you tired of saying “Got this,” “Got sand.” My dentist has a sign that says “Got Teeth?”


21:15 PH: And so there’s “Got muscles?” “Got Calf?” “Got Eyes?” And there’s a t-shirt that says “Got Originality?” which is my favorite one. But that whole campaign underscores what lazy, non-creative thinkers so many of us are. And I always take little exception of this. So I used that because in here is a bag that says “Got Green?” on it. And what I’m trying to say in this piece is we have to stop taking shortcuts and we have to dig deeper and hold our own clients accountable and then tell their proper right stories. So I’m going to run you through my ten brand-curdling clichés of green marketing, and it starts with “Got Green?” Now, one of the next things that people really react to or what people like to put in their name is the word green. If you are even remotely green, you add it to your name. And I maintain and I’m on a mission that everyone needs to take green out of their name unless they’re Green Peace or you have the cajones of Green Peace to back up your green grand positioning. So that’s my rule number one, is that if you’re inclined to put the word green in your name, don’t do it. Find out what the true benefit is to your customer and that’s what should be the focus of your brand and your name.

22:29 LL: This company I ran into a product not too long ago that was “Green smoke.” They were the green electronic cigarettes. [laughter]

22:37 PH: Yeah, correct. That’s so wrong in so many different ways that the incongruity of it just makes you go “What?” And that makes Joel Makowers of the world saying, “What the heck, gang?” That is actually greenwashing but it hurts all of us. And when I say all of us, not just the marketers but the manufacturers, the part suppliers and the services that are trying to make a difference of that. But that gives me the rule number two, and that is green leafy logos are in their autumn. So how many companies and product have you come across that they put a dang green leaf on their logo just to say “Hey, I’m green.” Well, I maintain that leaf does nothing but camouflage their true brand differentiator because everybody’s green anymore. And it’s not that they’re greenwashing but its just there’s no creativity in it and they’re especially missing the point of what is their true brand differentiator. It’s not just helping the planet but they must be delivering something better to the client than that, to their customer, and improving the planet with that natural by-product. So keep the leaves off your logos, you’re just camouflaging your differentiator.

23:43 PH: Number three is don’t rely on recycling logo as a rubber stamp that you’re green. And you see in this slide, a lot of different uses of the recycling logo and one that we could use, I think, in a very interesting way to tell the compelling grand story of Global Water. Now really quick with Global Water, what they are is a water utility that came in and purchased a bunch of small Mom and Pop water providers and treatment utilities and combined them and then double-plumbed communities down in Arizona so that they can send you the potable water for drinking. They get it back. They treat it, and then they send you the non-potable water back for your lawn, landscape and so forth. So they are having tremendous recycled use out of this water. And I love them because they say that they are experts at scarcity management. They’re not just a utility. So they’ve taken their brand much further. It’s that new source of water in a very water-restricted region.

24:40 PH: Well, this is a natural use of the recycling logo and in it you see we’ve used it as water drops. So it applies what they’re all about. It’s branding their use of recycled water, and they had made great strides in it and now they are exporting their technology and their knowledge around the world. So this is somebody that they’ve got… Their brand differentiator is scarcities, experts at scarcity management and they do that through the smart use of water. They’re not just a water utility. So I think that’s a brilliant use of the recycling logo. But if you are using it as a rubber stamp, stop doing it because people don’t automatically equate you to be a recycler just because you’ve got a logo in there. Next stop, I love this one. Rule number 4. You don’t need planet Earth in your ad. It’s redundant.


25:25 PH: So how can I ask you to pull up and there’s a planet in there? And we save the planet, and we have to be living on this very planet that we’re saving. Here are some good examples that we’ve taken. I think Greenpeace again does a brilliant job of making their point that is characteristic of their brand, very irreverent. They’re going to take that shot across the bottom of the whale route there. Now all of us aren’t going to do that. And in fact, most of us aren’t going to do that. And you can certainly argue that Greenpeace is on the edges. But they do a nice job of bringing their brand to the center for more consumers to be able to embrace, wrap their arms around. The World Wildlife Fund does a wonderful job, too. I love this particular ad where they’re showing what appears to be a paint can tipped over, and out of it is flowing a river and do a beautiful job of just saying, “Hey, if you don’t dispose of this stuff properly, it’s ending up in our fresh drinking water.” I’m showing you a couple of other ads here. One is for similar work with Goodwill again, a billboard that says, “Recycle,” I mean, Lorna, would you ever think of Goodwill as really being a major, major recycler?

26:36 LL: Actually, I do. That’s my one main motivation for dropping stuff off at Goodwill, because I have no idea how to get rid of some of the electronics and other types of objects that I’m no longer having a need for. And I just hope and trust that they figured it out.

26:55 PH: Yeah. Well, they have. And they’re doing a brilliant job…

26:57 LL: Oh, good. [laughter]

26:58 PH: I mean they really are, by their very business model, they’re in the recycling business, right? Well, now they’ve just have accentuated, amplified that communication because of the need to recycle and people, they are more intentional recyclers now. So this is a billboard that shows, yeah, recycle Goodwill. It doesn’t show the planet. It shows a little martini glass in there that says, “Whenever you donate anything to Goodwill, it stays out of landfill.” And that’s hugely important, in addition to putting people back to work. And then finally I’ll show you an ad for our Water – Use It Wisely Campaign that I had mentioned earlier. And in it, we don’t show any water, we just show a wrench and we give it as water saving device number 37. We have over a 100 different ways to save water. We’ve given all different kinds of water saving tip numbers to, like a toothbrush is water saving device number 53, I think it is. How do you save water with a toothbrush? It’s nothing but an environmental prop to remind you to turn the water off while you brush your teeth and you save about four gallons every time. So we don’t have t4o show water. We don’t have to show water drops, but we show and ignite the story by educating folks and getting them involved in it.

28:06 PH: So let’s move on to rule number five in my “Got Green? And the Ten Brand-Curdling Clichés of Green Marketing, and that is don’t tell us how green you are, but show us. And I used a cigarette butt put out here because I think the fact that restaurants not being able to have smokers in and then, they decided a change in smoking habit is a good example of green marketing. If you think about smoking, people smoke for years, years and years, and we finally realize all we’re doing is polluting our bodies, our own personal ecosystems. Well, green marketing is kind of the same way. We’re finally getting people in companies to wake up and realize that we can’t keep polluting and destroying the resources of our personal ecosystem, our planet. So it’s not enough just to come out and talk about all the things that we’re doing, but I think we need to show people. So if you’re a restaurant saying, “Hey, come on in! It’s a smoke-free environment.” Well, everybody is a smoke-free environment. Lots and lots of people now are much greener environment. I like it if you could show me what you’re doing as opposed to just talking about it.

29:09 PH: I think a great example we talked earlier is the Sun Chips and Frito-Lay. Even though they’ve taken it on the chin a little bit with how compostable is their bag, I love their whole start-to-finish story about the chip and how they can take a fairly inconsequential snack chip and create an entire sustainability story around it, not just what they’re doing, but education on what the consumers can be doing in their own right. I think they are doing a really brilliant job and I applaud their effort in that area. Number six is do not rely on green grass, blue skies and clouds to tell your sustainability story. And I went on to Shutterstock and all I did was search “green grass” and this is image that comes up, and you see this image everywhere on websites, in print ads. Not this particular image, but the image that characterizes the same sort of look. This is all… It goes back to that whole thing. “Don’t put planet Earth in your ad, we already know we live here. Let’s move on to a deeper conversation about what your company is actually doing and how your product is benefiting the planet only after it’s making me, the consumer, happy with how it works in my life.

30:14 PH: I want to show you a quick example of this too and this is the Eco Driving Program that we are working with out of Phoenix, and then the program that we worked and launching with Coca Cola. This is very much of a green program but you don’t see a bunny rabbit, you don’t see a blue sky, you don’t see a cloud in this thing. And in fact, eco driving is much about economy as it is about ecology. And what do you get when you train your fleet on how to drive smarter, anticipatory driving? You save significant amounts of fuel, cost in emissions. In similar programs in Europe have demonstrated as much as a 24% decrease in fuel use, cost of that fleet, and emissions. By the way, it puts a safer driver on the road and it significantly reduces the carbon impact of that fleet. But we don’t talk about that first and foremost. We talk about what it means to the business. It makes the business more sustainable and more efficient through the lack of fuel use and the cost savings associated with that.

31:14 LL: So what exactly is EcoDriving?

31:16 PH: Eco driving is a training program that is both e-learning and classroom, and it can be a blender approach or it can be one or the other. It’s about an hour to an hour and a half long program that you bring in your fleet drivers or anybody for that matter, if you want to just learn how to drive more efficiently. It shows you anticipatory driving in ways that you can be a smarter, safer driver that doesn’t race through your gasoline. In fact, our production manager here, Kathleen, took the program. I did a test with her and she saved 11% of her fuel cost on her very first tank of gas by learning how to drive better. Anticipatory is how to stay out of tight spots where you don’t have to race around the car. How to coast and glide through intersections without slamming the breaks on a red light, and then punching it from green lights down to air pressure in your tires and some really sort of no-brainer car operational things. It’s innate in all of us but this is not pragmatically top. Now, eco driving is a program that’s available to large and small fleets like that they can train their drivers within a week’s time and get this program out on the streets. Coca Cola started doing this in December of 2010, and they’ve already seen some significant decreases in their fuel consumption and the cost-savings associated with it simply by training 25,000 of their fleet drivers on how to be smarter, more eco-conscious drivers.

32:43 LL: Wow, I think I need that. I drive like a bat out of help.

32:48 PH: That is not yet available to a vast consumer market but that is coming, but if you want to learn more about the program, you can go to ecodrivingsolutions.com, and you’re going to learn all about it there. But I think this is just what I want to show here is it doesn’t have all the clichés associated with green marketing, and yet it’s very much green marketing. It talks first about the convenience and ease of adopting the program, what it’s going to save you on fuel and costs, and oh by the way, it’s going to have a significant impact on reducing your carbon footprint on the planet. Alright, moving right along, number seven, don’t use the term “all natural” unless you really mean it.

33:25 LL: Natural lacquer?

33:27 PH: Yes. Isn’t that a beautiful thing? But it really holds people’s feet to the fire when using the term “all natural” term. It shows up everywhere, and this is really the grades are green marketing stories are sustainability stories because this is probably the most blatant use of green market… Or greenwashing. As for one, it just absolutely needs to come under control. If you’re not all natural, do not put it on your product. Save it for those who actually are. Rule number eight is instead of greenwashing, I call it green fogging. It’s a term literally I just made up about obscuring your real brand attributes with the casual use of the word green. You see, you had mentioned this earlier, green smoke. Well now, come on, you can’t smoke an electric cigarette and really believe you’re being green about it. What is the core attribute of that product? It’s not so much that you’re greening the planet and it is. I suppose it’s safer for you instead of inhaling all that toxic nicotine. TheFurisGreen.com is what another of these. That one really cracks me up. I don’t think they’re differentiators is coming through because people are never going to believe that fur is green. Green Coal Technologies? Again, I think they probably have some great attributes. Then there are coal technologies that maybe more sustainable, but I think it’s a real leap to say that they’re green. Here are just some examples of people that are missing the point on their true product attributes and their brand attributes by slapping the word green on it. I call that, “green fogging.”

35:00 PH: Number nine, don’t adopt children and flowers to sell your product. Great products, sell products. I go back to this is an example of Green Works, Clorox, changing up their business model, they model on how they’ve green some of what was really pretty toxic cleaners to market. They had a lot of great success with Green Works. Now their market share has dropped a little bit because I’m not sure that there telling their story as well as they could. But here is an instance where they do have green in their name, and they were first to market with this, that they can own that differentiating standpoint within the consumer products market. But, an example of some of us coming hot on their heels is Method. I think Method is a beautiful job of bringing you a natural product, an organic product, a green product without trying to hit you over the head of being green. It becomes a natural product of their product.

35:52 PH: Number 10 and finally, this is one of my favorites, Only organic design and typefaces work with organic products. And the greatest culprit here is when people use Papyrus, the typeface Papyrus. You see it everywhere because that becomes, apparently, the end-all for green typefaces. But this is a picture of Cozy Chamomile, I think it’s about the only product in the world that should ever use Papyrus in their typeface, and everybody else should look at other ways of branding their design. So finally… Well, here’s an example in this that I forgot I had in here. Natural-Cut Fries with Sea Salt or the Coal Burger Eat Green and Live Green. Here are a couple of more examples of using green in the name that shouldn’t be there. It’s green fogging at best because it’s not really talking about what the product offers and there’s a little bit of greenwashing inherent in this too. Finally, some extra credit. If you have any intention of using environmental object coming out of cupped hands [laughter] or non-sequitur item in your advertising, don’t do it. I mean, go and Google “Earth in cupped hands” or “leaf inside light bulb,” I mean, it’s just ridiculous. It’s what so many people are defaulting to, and it’s just because they’re not…

37:12 LL: iStock Photo. [laughter]

37:13 PH: You know what I mean? Okay, there’s this funny example of this, alright? So we go looking around, and here’s a website and I just dare you to try to figure out who this website is for. Now, they’ve done everything here. They’ve got sustainability in the name. They’ve got the green background. They’ve got the cupped hands, the grass coming out of it. They’ve got the planet in it. They’ve got a green leaf in it. They got everything that you would imagine. They’re talking about how sustainable, how green they are and, ironically enough, they’re Purina Dog Chow. They’re just…

37:45 LL: Weird.

37:46 PH: Just wasn’t… Yeah. I’m kind of surprised they’d take it that far. Now, I’m sure they’re doing some really great things with their sustainability, but they fell for every single cliché there is in the book on trying to be green, and I think now as we get into a more skeptical market and the Joel Makowers of the world that I don’t know that this is going to work in their benefit. You know, I think they need to go back to what is that dog food really about and how is it making and raising healthier dogs and in the process, greening the planet and telling that story. So, finally at the end of all this, I mean and you can download this on my slide share or you can go to parkhowell.com and look up my “Got Gang Green?” blog post and in here is actually 18 symptoms of greenwashing, and I would suggest if you suffer from any three of these, and I should say greenwashing with green clichés, I say if you suffer from any three of these, then you really need to rethink your approach to branding and marketing and how you’re telling the differentiator for your brand, for your green sustainable brand because you may well have a terrific story to tell, but you may be just falling into the clichés on how you’re trying to tell it.

38:56 PH: So, I just will give you this last slide at parkhowell.com. That is my blog, my own personal blog. I write primarily about sustainable storytelling and a lot of the experiences we have had with our ad agency in telling stories as well as showing best practices from others around the world, and who is doing a great job, and occasionally having some fun and showing those that aren’t doing such a great job. And you will see here one my favorite photos, and this is a Banksy art over at LA on a parking lot, and I thought, “This really best sums up my approach to overall green marketing.” Here, you got a parking lot, a very utilitarian needed thing as long as we’re driving our vehicles around, but here came an artist that had some fun with it and sort of whitewashed the “ing” and made it just “park” with a little girl on a swing below it saying, “You know, we can have it both ways if we are conscious on what we’re doing our day to day lives, and how that’s impacting the world, and just trying to find more ways, more convenient, affordable ways to live better, cleaner, more sustainable lives.” And that starts with the product manufacturers on down to the consumers, and we are all a part of this chain of sustainability.

40:05 LL: Fantastic. Thank you so much for your time. I really enjoyed that presentation. And we’re about at the end of our segment, so this is Lorna Li, Editor-in-chief of Green Marketing TV and www.entrepreneursforachange.com. And we were just with Park Howell, who is a sustainable marketer, green business communications consultant, owner of sustainable marketing firm, Park&Co, which is located in Phoenix, Arizona. Park&Co ignites the growth of people, products, companies, and causes that dare to make the world a better place. For more information, check out www.parkhowell.com.

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