Blood For Oil?

January 7th, 2011

When we went into Iraq there was heated talk about “blood for oil.” A look past the politics, military strategy and marketing spin shows a cause for true concern: It’s China that’s getting the oil, not us.

A brilliant article, “When China Ruled the World,” by Thomas P. Barnett in the January 2011 Esquire, observes how the U.S provides the “Military muscle and China cleans up on the post-conflict resource extraction.”

He continues: “In Iraq, our ‘shock and awe’ has resulted in China being the only state with oil contracts both north (Kurds) and south (Arabs). In Afghanistan, our counterinsurgency efforts continue while China plans a $3 billion investment in the Aynak copper mine. As for the People’s Liberation Army casualties in both theaters: Zero.”

How is this happening? The reasons are complex. One reason is that U.S. green spin is helping us get out-competed by the Chinese, who use fossil fuels (undaunted by environmental concerns and free of restrictive legislation) to fuel their powerful economic engine. That’s not good for U.S. interests, environmental or otherwise. Misguided marketing that helps advance the unscrupulous fringe of the green agenda is shifting the U.S. environmental focus away from where it should be: Buying and extracting all the oil we can while burning U.S. coal — free from green attacks — while dusting off the construction manuals for (truly-green) nuclear power plants that could put millions of Americans back to work at high-paying “green” jobs.

So blood for oil was a legitimate concern after all. Too bad it’s our blood for Chinese oil. We should have bought those oil contracts while the getting was good. Any chance we can move past where we are stuck today? The key to moving toward sustainability will be marketing communications programs that are based on sound science and economics, rather than spin spawned by ideologies that obstruct sustainability and economic growth.

Manufactured Anti-Farm Outrage

January 4th, 2011

One of the common complaints bogus “environmental” marketers make against U.S. agriculture is that it’s full of “Factory Farms” which are seen and then defined by ag-tivists as environmentally and even morally flawed.

In fact, the vast majority of U.S. farms — more than 97 percent — are family owned.

Consider A February 2011 Consumer Reports article: “Your Bank, Now Better.” It states that the “12 largest credit card issuers hold almost 90 percent of all credit card debt.” Further, the nine largest national bank mortgage servicers handled 40 percent of all U.S. home mortgages between 2007 and 2008. This article wasn’t complaining about “factory financiers,” it was applauding new financial regulations.

So why is it that nobody complains if the nation’s credit card debt is held by 12 credit issuers, but media continues to publish misinformation about U.S. Agriculture? Because manufacturing outrage about U.S. agriculture is trendier? Easier to do? I’m stumped. What is it about the world’s safest, least expensive supply of nutritious food that makes it such a juicy target? Why the increasing manufactured outrage about U.S. agriculture?

Theory — Some of the deepest cultural, emotional and spiritual connections we have are with our food. Our personal relationships with food make it easier to raise activist cash around food. By being penitent about our food choices in response to activist criticism (and paying more for nutritionally identical yet masterfully marketed organic foods) do we purchase cheap cultural redemption for “food sins” that are manufactured by ag-tivists?

Information Overload

December 10th, 2010

Here’s an interesting video about information technology and social changes, which are happening faster every day. The soundtrack is a little freaky but the data that is shown is interesting from a marketing perspective.  It’s an increasing challenge to get through all of the information people receive each day.

Legal/IT — At Odds with Marketing?

November 19th, 2010

Marketers want their work to be seen as far and wide as possible. IT and Legal departments want to protect or even restrict information. The two groups are often poles apart in their goals, and that can interfere with achieving marketing goals. Corporate risk management can be especially destructive to reputation management. Consider this disclaimer at the end of an email I received from a corporate friend, in which he confirmed our lunch appointment. Not a bridge-builder to the outside world, is it?

“This e-mail message may contain privileged and/or confidential information, and is intended to be received only by persons entitled to receive such information. If you have received this e-mail in error, please notify the sender immediately. Please delete it and all attachments from any servers, hard drives or any other media. Other use of this e-mail by you is strictly prohibited.

“All e-mails and attachments sent and received are subject to monitoring, reading and archival by (COMPANY), including its subsidiaries. The recipient of this e-mail is solely responsible for checking for the presence of “Viruses” or other “Malware”. (COMPANY), along with its subsidiaries, accepts no liability for any damage caused by any such code transmitted by or accompanying
this e-mail or any attachment.

“The information contained in this email may be subject to the export control laws and regulations of the United States, potentially including but not limited to the Export Administration Regulations (EAR) and sanctions regulations issued by the U.S. Department of Treasury, Office of Foreign Asset Controls (OFAC). As a recipient of this information you are obligated to comply with all
applicable U.S. export laws and regulations.”

Bogus Green Marketing Claims

November 9th, 2010

If there’s any doubt that much of the green marketing that’s being used to sell products and policies is hype, check out this Wall Street Journal article from October 2010.

“More than 95% of (more than 5,000) consumer products examined committed at least one offense of “greenwashing,” a term used to describe unproven environmental claims.”

This is why basing marketing on sound science and economics is so vitally important. Unfortunately for the small minority of responsible green marketers the hype makes it harder to gain credibility. The solution is cutting edge communications that build credibility and cut through the clutter. That can be very difficult for traditional organizations, but sustainability innovators can easily apply new communications techniques to get their messages heard.

Keeping Up With Technology Changes

October 22nd, 2010

Alma Osthus, 101, realizes the device she is holding is a telephone.

In the 25 years I’ve been in marketing there have been amazing technical changes that are mostly taken for granted now.

I still remember driving a floppy disk from Carmel to Sunnyvale in 1987 to get a file that was written on a PC translated into a file that a MAC could read.  The job was done at a residential house that had a bunch of computers in the living room, where geeky-looking people were programing away at who knows what.  I waited an hour while they converted the file. The first time I sent a story to an editor on a floppy disk the branch VP at Gibbs & Soell called out this wonder in an all-staff memo.

Today, change is happening at a pace that’s difficult to follow. The Internet, now the Splinternet — via fixed and mobile devices — has given people more control over their information than ever before, and marketers have to truly innovate to stay relevant.

The changes in communications are captured well in the face of my grandmother, nearly 101 years old, as she beholds an iPhone for the first time and is told it is a telephone that also plays music and videos. When she was born the Wright brothers had flown for the first time a few months before. The phone she is holding in 2010 can connect with a string of satellites orbiting 24,000 miles overhead. I wonder what change the next 10 years will bring, let alone the next 101 years.

Going Green Through… Font Selection?

October 19th, 2010

We’re not sure if the LCA of various fonts has been worked out, but there’s some interesting news in Consumer Reports Money Advisor about font selection and ink usage:

CR reports that using 12 point Times New Roman font produces 419 pages per ink cartridge, compared to 305 pages per cartridge for 12 point Arial.  Verdana is least ink-friendly of all, with only 276 pages flowing from the same size cartridge.

We’re mildly curious how the footprint of less” ink per page” compares to that of more “paper per cartridge.” 

Of course we can use any font we please online and have almost zero environmental impact.

If you want those expensive ink cartridges to last longer, an easy solution may be a font-choice away.

Going Beyond Greening — Sustainability Marketing Strategies and Insights

October 11th, 2010

Here’s a link to a thought piece Blue Spring published in July, challenging marketers to move “beyond greening” and be more ethical and effective at advancing the important cause of sustainability:

Beyond Green Marketing – Blue Spring Communications

FTC’s Proposed Green Marketing Guidelines Target Rampant Marketing Misinformation

October 11th, 2010

The green marketing guidelines that were proposed by the Federal Trade Commission on October 6 are sure to upset a lot of folks who’ve been making green marketing claims based more on ideology than sound science and economics.

 The FTC news release says:  “The revised Guides caution marketers not to make blanket, general claims that a product is “environmentally friendly” or “eco-friendly” because the FTC’s consumer perception study confirms that such claims are likely to suggest that the product has specific and far-reaching environmental benefits. Very few products, if any, have all the attributes consumers seem to perceive from such claims, making these claims nearly impossible to substantiate.”

 These are the first green marketing guidelines in 12 years and they dramatically impact rampant green marketing efforts and even make many of the hundreds of environmental “seals of approval” out of sync with the new rules. 

Here is a link to the proposed guidelines:

Blue Spring Communications Challenges Marketers to Move Beyond Greening

July 15th, 2010

At a time when most organizations talk about the environment strictly in terms of greening or pollution reduction, marketers have a historic chance to promote sustainability positions that deliver social, economic and environmental benefits that reach far beyond greening.

To learn more about moving beyond greening toward sustainability, please click here:  Beyond Green Marketing – Blue Spring Communications