Today’s topic, how does brand popularity truly work, and what does a GREEN BRAND have to do to deliver on its inherent promise of popularity?
What GREEN BRANDS have to do to make it:
If you’re like me, you’ve seen one too many earnest, eager young entrepreneurs fall flat on their face failing to successfully launch their earnest, eager GREEN BRAND idea into the marketplace.
Why do so many new brands fail—even when they seem to be tapping into what the market (apparently) wants? New brands fail for two reasons (beyond the obvious business-case reasons, such as poor cash planning, which for the time being we will leave aside).
Brands Frequently Fail For One of Two Principal Reasons:
1. They fail to distinguish between what people SAY they want and what wants they will PAY for. (There’s frequently a big difference between the two—especially in “non-essential” areas, such as environmental or ecological qualitative upgrades to otherwise required products, such as CPGs).
2. Brands fail to identify with and align with the singular unspoken promise that resonates best with their brand collateral. Put another way—the medium and the message don’t match. Simple example a “STOP” sign that is round and green. Clue: a confused mind can’t purchase.
First the bad news: People really don’t care about your great idea. Next the good news…
People really don’t care about your great idea. A couple quick illustrations will ground the two ‘brander failure’ points from above while illustrating just this:
Ben, an eager young entrepreneur has been talking with his friends about his idea for putting grass garbage into giant paper bags that mulching trucks will pick up curbside and directly downcycle into compost. Everyone’s excited about it! Only trouble is, once he factors in all the costs, including the special trucks required, the cost comes to about five dollars a bag for pickup. It turns out that at this price, there just aren’t enough customers; all that eager early interest didn’t translate into committed orders…
Janeen, a CPA who has been ‘right-sized’ out of a major accountant firm is all excited about her new cosmetics line. She’s done her research and knows that the natural tea tree extract formulation and green bamboo-style packaging are ‘hot’ right now—however, after investing tens of thousands in product development, graphic design and inventory, her products are languishing on the shelves of the few stores she has got to carry them…
Ben’s failing for brander reason #1—what people SAY, isn’t what they’ll necessarily PAY for—while Janeen’s failing for brander reason #2—her product and her pricing say one thing (trendy, new, expensive) while her GREEN-style collateral is saying quite another (I’m popular!)—without the social proof to back it up. Furthermore, it’s unlikely she’ll get that social proof at the price point she has chosen for her formulas.
Now the good news: There’s nothing WRONG with these green ideas—it’s just the way to get people to act on it isn’t through beating people over the head (or earnestly explaining…) how great they are.
Like Ben or Janeen, you may think your idea is cool, interesting or even world-changing…and maybe it is. However, most people don’t care. They’re not all that interested in your idea, your data, or your better way of doing things. What they’re really interested in (and ALL they are interested in) is fulfilling on their desires.
People Have Universal Desires: What makes you think a GREEN BRAND would be an exception to fulfilling on this requirement?
These desires are things we ALL have—they’re things like being loved, respected, appreciated, being popular, famous, thin; or being part of something bigger than themselves.
When it comes to ‘GREEN BRANDING’, it is absolutely vital for branders to realize that if they are choosing to go with a green-colored message (by this we mean using the actual color green in their brand mark, logo, packaging or other collateral) that the contents of this message are pre-determined by the color.
In fact, when it comes to ANY brand messaging—colors (first) determine message. Why? It’s simply the way the human brain is wired to the eye. Understanding WHAT message is wired to WHICH color is a key to understanding to how branding truly works.GREEN MESSAGES relate to ‘fecundity’..er, SEX
For GREEN BRANDS (that is, GREEN BRANDING), the message that comes with the color is related to fecundity. Fecundity is simply a fancy word that describes being likely to reproduce. In general terms, this is somewhat related to sexiness (but not quite directly). It’s more like being in the mood if you were available—but it’s likely you might not be (in the mood). If you’re confused, don’t be. It’s really quite simple. Remember the sexy ‘nice’ girl in Junior High who always seemed to act like she was available, but was really just a tease? Ya—that’s it! In other words, GREEN in brand messaging relates to the perpetually attractive Virgin. Guess what—she’s also where popularity begins—and ends. In archetypal terms, think of Rapunzel. Gorgeous, amorous, but secured in a high tower where everyone else can just crowd around for a look. In brand terms, think Starbucks, The Body Shop—or the prototypical pre-sexual counterpart (directly across the color spectrum, because of its pre-sexual nature)—Barbie. (Of course, Barbie, and Barbie pink are another blog entry unto themselves—we won’t get into that today.)
What people really DO want: popularity—for themselves!
When thinking GREEN BRANDING, it pays to like musicals—at least one musical in particular. If you’ve seen Wicked, you’ll know that the Wicked Witch of the West (of Wizard of Oz fame) has made her return in an ‘anti-hero’ saga which pits ‘wicked’ GREEN Elphaba (that’s the WWW) against the ‘good’ Glinda (remember the Good Witch who flies down in a bubble in Oz?) Click for an inspiring perspective from Wicked, and our partner blog at Hello From The Future.
It turns out, of course, that not all is as it seems. Good is not always so good—and evil—well you’ll have to see the musical (I’m not a spoiler), but the bottom line for us is this: Elphaba FAILS miserably at being popular (beginning at school), while Galinda (she changes her name later) is the ‘popular’ one. Why? Simple: GREEN is the foil to popularity. A background of GREEN makes those in the foreground seem that much more attractive. Go for a walk in the springtime with your lover and see if you don’t agree!
GREEN = POPULAR, Now What?
So now what? GREEN = POPULAR. So…? You ready for the punch-line?
It’s not about your brand, never was about your brand, and never will be about your brand!
It is VITAL that your GREEN packaged brand delivers on its Unspoken Promise of.. being Popular. Here’s the kicker—it’s not about your brand being popular—it’s about your customer.
Yup—that’s why Starbucks and its ilk are popular—because they make their customers feel that way. Remember Ben and Janeen, our green branders? See, they missed this step. They didn’t realize they had to make their customers feel popular in the process. Think people won’t pay $5 a bag to pickup grass clippings? Maybe..but what if Ben had made his customers popular by placing a permanent medallion on customers’ front yards proclaiming “Environmental Champion” and making that part of the pitch? There was a time people wouldn’t dream of paying $5 for a coffee…
Your brand can gain popularity WITHOUT people necessarily caring about your ‘big idea’.
Thing is, it really doesn’t matter if people ‘get’ your ‘big idea’. In the long run it only matters they buy from you. If they do, your ideal will take off and you’ll be able to deliver on your promise, mission, vision and values to the world. Think Starbucks cares about the environment? I don’t really know—on their website they report being committed to fully recyclable or reusable cups by…2015! (Whoa—hold me down—I think I just got whiplash from all that fast action ;-). Think it really matters to their customers? 17,009 stores and counting…
The TRUTH of how BRAND POPULARITY really works (it may not be what you think…)
The truth is brands get popular by being popular (ya, circular logic). However, for GREEN BRANDS, which ultimately make an unstated promise of popularity, it’s actually a little easier. See, they actually have this cute little shortcut. All a GREEN BRAND has to do is make its customers feel popular. That’s it! Once it succeeds at that, IT becomes popular. The rest, as they say, is history…
The Social Proof is in the Social Pudding
Thinking GREEN? Here are a few shortcuts to consider making your customers feel popular—and making your GREEN BRAND SUPER SUCCESSFUL:
1. Create an ‘in the know’ club-like atmosphere
2. Using special language and unique product identifiers is all part of the game (Tall non-fat frappocino anyone?)
3. Package using KELLY green exclusively (white or black as accents only)
4. Use female forms and shapes for logo design (think circular, tubular, curvilinear)
5. Make them wait (but not too, too long) for service (old night club trick)
6. Pack ‘em in. Crowding people a little beyond their ordinary ‘comfort zone’ actually increases a sense of ‘crowd security’ if everyone in the crowd is ‘part of the club’.
You don’t need to throw away your GREEN BRAND idea—you DO need to ‘frame it’ or put it in a context of one of these universal human desires. Surprise: for ‘green’ brands, (that is, brands which communicate using the language and color of GREEN), this desire is unconsciously set around all things to do with social standing.
Being part of something popular—something bigger than oneself—and ultimately being personally popular within this context is the ‘unstated promise’ of every green brand!