For me, some of the most interesting marketing news this year has been the declaration of war between the big retailers for the organic food market, both in the States and the U.K. AdAge kicked off the campaign in mid July with an article about Wal Mart’s multimillion-dollar campaign “focused on its new organic food offerings,” their “first ever” organic logo and the advertising tagline “What will you bring to the table?” According to Janel LaMonica, VP-creative director at Bernstein-Rein, there have always been two things holding back the growth of the organic food market: one, the difficulty in finding organic products, the other, the difficulty of affording them. She makes the claim that “Wal-Mart has taken down both these barriers.”Click to continue reading »
I just got my copy of the innaugural issue of the much-anticipated GOOD Magazine. It’s really good and well worth the $20 annual subscription fee – which gets you six magazines, admision to various parties, and a donation to the charity of your choice. If you like TreeHugger, you’ll love GOOD – it’s almost like a print version of everyone’s favorite modern green lifestyle blog, but with a bit more in-depth articles and more of a social and political bend to it. And it’s on paper, which I kind of like since I can throw it in my bag and read elsewhere.
The magazine is printed on recycled paper. That said – I hereby issue a challenge for Pablo: Let’s compare the impact of GOOD Magazine being in a print version with an online equivalent, asuming the stated goal of 50,000 bi-monthly subscribers.
According to an article in Seed Magazine, indoor urban aquaculture in the middle of New York City could be as productive as current fish-farming techniques with better health results for both people and the environment. A test system in Brooklyn is farming thousands of Tilapia succesfully while using a bacteriological system to handle the fishes’ waste. By recirculating water through this system the technique could be used on countless vacant lots and wharehouses in urban areas around the world. It is claimed the system is less stressful on the fish too. So far it isn’t a profitable business, but with pressure on wild fish stocks ever increasing, there’s a chance this entrepreneur is on to something.
There is a lot of talk these days about rising energy prices, but many U.S. agricultural sector websites still insist on telling Americans that they live better than anyone else in the world because their food is cheaper. Calculating from a base of the percentage of one´s annual wage that is dedicated to food expenses, the statistics are quite astonishing. According to the USDA/Economic Research Service, the percentage of family income spent on food in the United States has dropped from 24.2% in 1930 to a mere 9.5% in 2004. A UC Davis education site puts the figure at less than 9%, adding a eulogy that Americans should be truly grateful.
According to Food Check-out Week, another site published by the California Farm Bureau, in 2006 “the average household will earn enough disposable income — that portion of income available for spending or saving — to pay for its annual food supply in only five weeks”. Five weeks compared to nine weeks for the French, thirteen weeks for the Japanese and a whopping seventeen weeks for the Mexicans.
Before I started writing about sustainability, I used to take on freelance work as a language, public relations and corporate communications coach for Spanish executives in a wide range of sectors, from tourism to manufacturing. I helped them negotiate contracts with foreign partners, compete for high-level positions in multinational corporations and survive foreign takeovers of their companies.
I was often sought out because I was an American and the American executive model was the most admired. From time to time, I served as a human resources consultant for Northern European and American companies. After a candidate was hired, I was often asked to coach the new executive to improve his or her language skills and inter-cultural communications. Most of these executives had shelves full of books about American management and marketing concepts. To perplexed FC Barca and RCD Espanyol fans, I explained the business terminology related to American and British sports vocabulary; what it is was to field or bunt for another person, cover all the bases, have targets and goals, to huddle, and to establish a level playing field. In those days, Europe looked almost exclusively to North Americans for advice on how to reach the heights of success; from stolen cheese theories to the strategy of selling one’s Ferrari after one reached the top. Things have changed a bit since then.
Unlike Vanity Fair, whose green issue was notoriously un-green, The Economist has gone to great lengths to document and offset the environmental impact of its 16 page “green issue” which comes out tommorow. After tallying it all up, the magazine paid about $1200 to a company called Carbon Neutral which sequestered a certain tonnage of CO2 in a mine on their behalf. The solution is interesting, but the fact that they took the time to make the calculations is arguable more valuable since it lays the groundwork for understanding where to direct future efficiencies.
Rather than yet another post bashing McDonalds for their ill-advised decision to put toy Hummers in their happy meals, I thought presenting them with a new idea might be more productive. Al from CityHippy and Matthew from Enviroblog have been cooking up a really interesting notion (Inspired by Brie’s comment on my last post): If Hummers sell happy meals, why not Priuses?
Hybrids of all kinds are outselling Hummers a million to one, so there is clearly an appeal, and kids love technology and new gadgets. Why not give out happy meals with toy Priuses, Smart Cars and Tesla Roadsters inside? The kids would love them, the PR would be outstanding, and McDonalds would actually have the satisfaction of feeling good about their claims to be commited to environmental stewardship. I don’t know what kind of cash GM forked over to promote their Hummers, but couldn’t a similar deal be worked out with more responsible automakers? What if I promise to eat a Big Mac?
Seriously though, unless GM has given McDonalds untold millions for the promo, it seems like giving away something that actually promotes wiser choices can’t possible be a bad thing, in fact it has to be better. What would it take to make it happen?
PS – In further news, a number of people have called into question the open-ness of the McDonald’s CSR blog, whose comments section seems to be very delayed and may not, in fact, post all comments. Although some degree of spam and troll monitoring makes sense, it goes against the principals of a blog to filter comments however negative! Hopefully they will have the courage to open comments up more quickly.
Kiehl’s is a famous chain of drugstores which for some reason I’d never heard of. Nonetheless, I’m told by their recent press release that they are a global brand with some clout. So it’s great to see a brand of their stature teaming up with the NRDC to raise awareness of global warming. The banner under which they’ve decided to march is called “Click for Greenland“. If you watch a short presentation and then click a link, 25 cents is donated to the NRDC. Not bad.
This is a very interesting sort of campaign. For one thing it’s a little more interactive than just sticking up a banner in the store saying “we care” or even by making an outright donation. By forcing the reader, and potential customer, to visit a website and look around, then click on something, you get a lot more of that person’s time and both the issue and the sponsor get a lot more exposure. Plus, the website is well designed and rather interesting, which should presumably be an added payoff for the visitor and obviously benefits the NRDC, a worthy organization.
But the marketing campaign is obviously good for Kiehl’s considering I’d never even heard of them and here I am singing their praises in a very public space. If you know any reason why I shouldn’t please comment below…
McDonalds has caught a lot of flack lately because of the infamous toy Hummers included in their happy meals for kids. They’ve also caught a lot of defense from people who don’t really see what the big deal is – it’s just a toy truck after all. The problem, of course, is that the Hummer has become something of an international symbol of bad taste and touching it with so much as a ten foot poll is bound to rile people up, whether justified or not.
Bob Langert’s excellent McDonalds CSR blog offers a response today, saying that he feels the promotion does not, in fact, reflect McDonald’s commitment to envrironmental responsibility, which is not quite the same thing as saying it was a bad idea. But either way, I think it’s great that McDonald’s official blog can offer an honest response.
Pablo is a Sustainability Engineer who uses his unique background to answer readers’ sustainability-related questions. Pablo is a Sustainability Engineer and VP at ClimateCHECK. He is a graduate of the Presidio School of Management and earned his engineering degree from Cal Poly. He answers readers’ questions with regards to such technical issues as energy consumption, efficiency, life cycle analysis, and environmental footprints of business. His perspective is that of a seasoned engineer with the added business sense that comes with an MBA in Sustainable Management.
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If you are in the San Francisco Bay Area, and are considering entering an MBA program, consider popping over to Ft. Mason on Friday, September 22 to meet Presidio faculty, staff, graduates, and students for an MBA Open House. It starts at 5:30 PM
There will be a half-hour presentation followed by Q&A. It’s a great way to start your weekend. See you there!
Open House Location:
Fort Mason Center Building A – Marina Room
in San Francisco
You must RSVP to: events-at-presidiomba.org
”Those who can, build. Those who can’t, criticize,” was a famous line of the late Robert Moses. Although he never held elected office, Moses charted the course of urban planning and development of New York City for the best part of the twentieth century. For those too young to remember, or too far from the Big Apple to have lived its transformations during Moses´ long trajectory as the eminence grise of New York City government, I recommend Robert Caro´s monumental biography, a visit to New York Transit Museum’s exhibition The Triborough Bridge: Robert Moses and the Automobile Age, on view until April, 2008, or at least a quick scan of his 1981 New York Times obituary.
It was Moses’ “cherished ambition… to weave together the loose strands and frayed edges of New York’s arterial tapestry,” according to the transit authority press release for the exhibition, a sentiment that could be used to describe Sweden based multinational corporation Skanska AB´s relationship to the same city. Just as few people identified Moses as the man behind the changing landscape of New York from the 1930s to the 1960s, few people today would relate the name of Skanska with the renovation of the Lexington / 53rd St. subway station, The World Trade Center transportation hub project at Ground Zero or the transformation of the FDR Drive. In the most recent issue of its own company magazine, “Worldwide”, the company suggests that, “Skanska could well be New York’s best kept secret,” and lists no less than 27 Skanska projects in the greater New York area.
With the price of gas up and car-dependant sprawl the development norm for most people it’s interesting to see an analysis of exactly how much the average household shells out per year in gasoline costs. According to Sperling’s Most and Least Expensive Places for Driving list, Atlanta tops the list with a whoping annual gas expense of $5,772 per household. Not surprisingly, suburban areas in the south, especially Florida and Southern California also rank high. But interestingly, El Paso comes in as the cheapest – a city no less car dependant than any of the others.
It turns out that the survey does not take into consideration households without cars, or I’m fairly certain New York and San Francisco would have scored much lower. It’s also a metropolotain ranking, so even though people in Manhattan hardly ever drive, the rating that includes them would stretch halfway across New Jersey. The numbers don’t include car mainenence and other factors either.
Useful or not? The entire list can be seen here.