It’s Easy to be Green – Take 2

Building on our post last year about Marcal’s line of earth-friendly paper products, Kimberly Clark has taken green innovation to the next step with its new Tube-free bath tissue.

Launched exclusively in Walmart and Sam’s Club stores, the new tube-free bath tissues offer consumers a visible way to help reduce the 160 million pounds of trash (usually not recycled) generated by discarded toilet paper tubes.

One downside – the new Tube-free offering does not use recycled paper, like the rest of the Scott Naturals line. However, K-C personnel indicate a move to at least 40% recycled-content paper is in the planning stages, especially if the product is launched into other retail outlets.

Have you tried this new tube-less wonder? What do you think – share your thoughts in Comments.

Reality Show Nation

Summer 2010 could have been dubbed the “Summer of Snooki”, named for the much discussed breakout “star” of MTV’s hit reality show Jersey Shore. For months, Snooki and her male counterpart The Situation have been getting more than their 15 minutes of fame via constant exposure – tabloid TV and magazines, website chatter and tweets – all anxiously reporting on every drunken stumble, questionable wardrobe selection and salacious hookup. It’s been widely reported that Snooki was paid $30,000 per episode to appear in Season 2 – not bad for a 22 year-old former veterinarian technician student; and Elle magazine has just selected her as one of Hollywood’s most powerful women, alongside studio heads, network chiefs and Oscar winners such as Angelina Jolie and Sandra Bullock.

But this discussion is not about the supposed shame Jersey Shore’s cast has brought to the Garden State, but rather some thoughts on the impact of extreme personalities in our dynamic media and marketing environment. Some, including The Atlantic’s Mark Ambinder posit that the pervasiveness of reality show characters has made wacky, crazy political candidates more acceptable:

But all the reality shows — and the characters who have been mainstreamed and are now a part of our lives, people who we would otherwise encounter when we browsed the tabloids at the supermarket — have conditioned us for “wild and woolly” candidates. Culture bleeds into politics, and the other way around.

Next week’s elections won’t spell the end of the parade of dysfunctional loudmouths – the winners will take their places in Washington DC and state capitols around the country to pontificate for the next 2, 4 or 6 years. And some of the losers will leverage their new-found visibility into talk shows, book contracts and continue to assault our senses for months to come. And every night we’re treated to another batch of reality show contestants – teen parents, addicts, alleged singers and dancers – will marketers’ messages be able break through this cacophony?

As mass media content (both entertainment and news) becomes extreme will marketing tactics need to become even more extreme to capture the attention of consumers? Or will a softer tone get the message across more effectively?

What do you think? Please share your thoughts in Comments.

The Green Value Opportunity: Local Solutions

According to public relations firm Edelman,

” the global tide of conspicuous consumption is turning away from traditional status symbols of the past and moving toward products and brands that support sustainability. Protecting the environment, improving healthcare and reducing poverty are the causes that global consumers care about most.”

Marketers are taking notice of this. As discussed in a previous post, we believe there are new value areas to be mined-areas that people will resonate to more deeply-a higher order level of value. And ‘Green Value’ represents one of those opportunities.

One of the more visible efforts in this direction can be observed with P&G’s Dawn DishwashingLiquid. When the brand came to the rescue in the Gulf Coast what quickly followed was an eco-friendly advertising message featuring Dawn as “the only product that can be used to clean oil-soaked animals” and a promotion where portion of sales would be contributed to Save Wildlife.

Leslie Kaufman discusses the Dawn phenomenon in her column, Ad for a Dish Detergent Becomes Part of a Story.

And, consumers are living green!

Yes, the notion of green (which initially spoke to environmental or macro-level conservation) has trickled down and has become personal. And, as green becomes personal, consumers are finding ways to make more personally and socially responsible decisions about how they spend their money-choices they view as long-term solutions.

Reduce-Reuse-Recycle is a long standing initiative referring to minimization of waste materials, and you don’t have to go very far to see charts instructing us on how to accomplish this.

What we want to explore has to do with the mindset that consumers are bringing to their decision making process. To this end, let’s take a look at three living green solutions!

The growth in the buy local movement speaks to a sustainability strategy with benefits that extend beyond the “feel good” support your community. Not only might it have favorable economic implications for a community or region, it becomes a deeper way for consumers to demonstrate environmental responsibility. In addition to thinking of local in terms of geography, we propose thinking of it as a micro concept so we actively include smaller enterprises in our decision-making set for whatever we consume.

Just as individuals flock to farmers’ markets in cities across the country or seeing ‘buy local’ triggers one’s commitment to support local growers, people are applying this concept to other sectors.

Imagine customers being motivated to switch their financial portfolio from an investment banking leader to Domini Social Investments, an investment firm committed to socially conscious investing. Investors can directly support underserved communities in every state through a special Social Bond Fund.

Then there are restaurants like Red Robin being recognized by the National Restaurant Association in an annual reward designed to “raise awareness about the restaurant industry’s contributions to local communities and to inspire other restaurant operators and owners to do the same.” Or Jimmy’s No. 43, one of the first restaurants in New York City to stop serving bottled water, hosting slow-food events and featuring a slow-food menu as part of its commitment to the Slow-Food movement.

The impact of ‘local/green’ solutions can also be applied to other product and service providers. Let’s spotlight some existing and potential opportunities.

Apparel. Environmentally friendly clothing is no longer limited to niche brands. Now you can count Van Heusen, Levi and Eileen Fisher among the companies with organic entries.

Food/Beverages. Major soft drink and beverage marketers, such as Coca-Cola and Pepsi maintain dozens of bottling facilities across the country. Prominent label copy highlighting “bottled in Philadelphia, PA, or Tampa, FL, or Portland, OR” would remind consumers of the reduced carbon footprint and improved product freshness of a product bottled nearby.

Restaurants. Jim Denevan, founder of the traveling restaurant series Outstanding in the Field, has made it his commitment “to re-connect diners to the land and the origins of their food, and to honor the local farmers and food artisans who cultivate it.” The OITF experience is captured vividly in Deborah Moss’ column, Foodie feasts straight from the farm. Restaurants participating in New Jersey’s Restaurant Week promote special efforts to include locally grown/sourced ingredients in their menu offerings.

Retail. From Whole Foods to supermarket giant Kroger, grocery stores are highlighting locally grown produce and specialty products.

Travel. The Staycation (or vacationing close to home) phenomenon, triggered by the economic downturn, has become a feature of hotels from luxury brands like The Breakers Palm Beach or major chains like Marriott or Hilton. Even state tourist boards are seeing the value of strategies to encourage travelers to spend their recreation dollars in their state or neighboring states. In addition to the cost savings, travelers also get the benefit of lightening their carbon footprint.

Can you think of other ways to bring local solutions to your marketing and brand strategies?

The New Value: Going Way Beyond Price

The Landscape

In this time of near double-digit unemployment, rampant underemployment, sky-rocketing home foreclosures and other adverse economic factors, the emergence of the tightfisted consumer was totally predictable. What was spawned from necessity does not appear to be a short-term strategy. Rather, it is becoming a way of life for a majority of Americans.

Harris Interactive reports that American consumers continue to hold the line on spending, with 63% purchasing more generic (private label) branded products. This behavior is consistent across generations.

A recent study from Decitica, Marketing to the Post-Recession Consumers posits that consumer spending patterns have been profoundly altered by the current recession and we are now entering a period of “new normal.” Decitica has identified four distinct consumer segments – Steadfast Frugalists, Involuntary Penny-Pinchers, Pragmatic Spenders, and Apathetic Materialists.

While consumers’ commitment and focus on finding the lowest prices vary, it’s clear that price-related value is no longer a competitive advantage. Rather, it has become an expected attribute for many purchasers.

The traditional retail “fix” of offering discounts is no longer (or is fast becoming) like email SPAM. In other words, buyers are applying their own mental filters to these offers, going for the lowest price point across many product categories. But, this approach has resulted in store brands in some categories becoming category leaders – suggesting that lower pricing as a strategy is a form of value that brand marketers cannot sustain.

Given these conditions, it is clear that the days of price discounts as the sole expression of value are over.

As consumers navigate the new economic world order, more than ever, they want to feel they are getting the best value for their money. Marketers will need to be more inventive in their offers and create products as well as marketing messaging that imbue brands with discernible value. So the question is this:

In what ways might marketers re-create brand value in today’s environment?

It begins with looking at value through an entirely new lens.

A New View of Value

In recent years, companies have begun to enhance brand value with what might be described as product-driven, functional value strategies.

Some brands, many in the Procter & Gamble stable, are combining well-recognized attributes of premium brands such as Dawn Hand Renewal with Olay Beauty, Mr. Clean with Febreze Freshness, Tide with a Touch of Downy to offer consumers an assurance of product performance and desirable attributes. This brand-combining strategy has enabled P&G to maintain its premium priced edge.

In the current new campaign for 1800 Tequila, the commercial’s protagonist points to the functionality of the cap as a point-of-difference with Patron.

Clearly, if there are product elements that can be leveraged as these examples demonstrate, marketers should naturally capitalize on these product advantages. But, there is also a consumer-driven factor that is likely to strengthen this trend towards a new value paradigm and we believe this is an attitude of responsibility. Specifically, people are becoming more responsible when it comes to the ‘stuff’ they acquire.

When you layer on facts like declining disposable income or postponing retirement out of financial necessity, it is inevitable that the purchase decision process will be more conscious, even introspective as buyers weigh their choices. And, the factors weighed are likely to reflect factors that might not have considered in the past. With these shifting attitudes, we believe there are new value areas to be mined-areas that people will resonate to more deeply-a higher order level of value.

As we look to redefine value in this new era, it is important to look at areas that are likely to have an enduring impact on consumers’ purchase decision process. We believe these reflect what used to be incidental benefits but now are more at the forefront that ever before. By tapping into these avenues of opportunity, brand perceptions will be enhanced and companies will have a chance to make a new impression in the marketplace.

In subsequent posts, we will feature the New Value opportunities. Stay tuned to our first discussion – the Green Value opportunity.