OK I found this article about exploiting or tapping into the green potential of brands. To be honest, I could waffle about this myself but I thought I would just put the whole article up. It's from the World Advertising Research Centre. Enjoy:
It is curious, do you not think? In so many business discussions, far-thinking worthies have agreed that 'naturals' is big and naturals is here to stay, blah, blah. And in so many varied businesses – such as beverages, skin care, hair care, food products, lifestyle, leisure, fashion, travel destinations and even jewellery – there is growing evidence that consumers consider a natural or nature-based appeal to be highly inviting and motivating. And yet the size of 'natural' business in many categories remains niche.
That is curious.
It leads one to ask a few fundamental questions.
If, attitudinally, consumers are actively green, why are they passively green behaviourally? Or, worse, neutral?
Is there something about the appeal and aura of naturals that their marketing is not touching upon?
Why have businessmen/marketers not been able to fully leverage green inclinations?
Is this an area where consumers are indeed ahead of marketers? It appears to be.
GREEN IS KEEN
Naturals are growing in appeal across markets. Often in flat categories the natural segment is the growing (albeit niche) one. There is prolific consumer evidence that people, attitudinally, actively prefer naturals.
Several advantages of naturals are both felt and perceived. From a purely product-use point of view, naturals promise no side effects, holistic impact, non-intrusive action and long-term benefits. This 'functional' or product-derived credibility consumers associate with naturals, across product categories, is well established. And what is especially significant is that most younger consumers are pro-natural. This is borne out strongly in recent research.
GREEN INCLINED, HELL YEAH!
Young people (15–19 year olds) who will be the mainstream consumers of tomorrow show strong 'green' leanings. Lifestyle and attitude research based on the TGI (Target Group Index) with an all-India sample size of 17,000 confirmed these pro-naturals attitudes; 15–19 year olds in metro areas strongly agree that:
they are prepared to pay more for environmentally friendly product–index 121
given a choice they would prefer to use a herbal rather than a non-herbal product: – index 110.
The question is: if the appeal of naturals is so evident, the potential of naturals so avowedly ripe, why then are naturals businesses not the sweeping success they were meant to be?
This thesis seeks to bridge the chasm between the business potential and the business promise of naturals. Beyond particular category contexts, it brings to life the fundamentally different stance a naturals business must embrace for consumers to embrace it in turn.
1. Examine 'the other 50%'.
Marketing theory tells us that, beyond functionality, as much as 50% of the over-all appeal of a category or brand is driven by its emotional appeal or 'tug'. So, let us examine if there is a deep and powerful 'emotionale' (emotional appeal) driving the buzz around naturals.
Few business ideas in today's choice-cluttered world have the credibility, appeal and broad acceptance that naturals enjoy. So, beyond their rationale, could there be a latent 'emotionale' that (dormant) naturals businesses have not tapped into?
2. No more research please. How about using category archaeology instead?
It is fair to say that naturals, being a growing segment, must be among the most researched fields – qualitatively and quantitatively, as well as in R&D terms. So still more research is not going to unpeel this onion (pun intended).
However, starting from a different standpoint, like category archaeology, might. This is a tool from cultural anthropology that can be applied to business and marketing, and it is especially useful when we are seeking answers to a fundamental question like ours.
Category archaeology unearths hidden meanings and associations that exist in people's collective understanding, and is often remarkably revelatory. Given the momentum that naturals have built up over the years, and the overall attitudinal support and acceptance of naturals, is there a meaning and association around naturals buried deep in people's minds, somewhere glossy research reports don't reach? Is this something we can unearth and then leverage to free the frozen potential of naturals?
THE DUALITY OF NATURALS
Armed with these two hypotheses as an intellectual starting point of inquiry, we started to 'dig'. As we dug into naturals as an overarching category, irrespective of products, we came across a revelation: functionally, naturals are very strong and credible – clearly evident are their long-term benefits and lack of negative side effects, regardless of particular product or service functions. However, beyond their functional fitness, naturalness, as an overall appeal, has a duality.
One one hand, there is the dark side of naturals. In projective terms this comes across vividly. The dark side of naturals is personified and visualised as old and dark, literally and metaphorically. Old age, grandfather, therapeutic, dull, old songs, black and white, no colour, disease, ayurveda. This side of naturals comes with all the credibility and authority of naturals but with sensory, emotional and cultural associations that are decidedly off-putting, old-fashioned, very distant and aged from today's consumers. (Note, this in the context of younger consumers being especially pro-natural.)
But, on the other hand, another side to naturals was revealed. This is the bright side of naturals, which gets equally vividly unearthed in projective terms. It is envisioned as bright and young, both literally and metaphorically. Young, feminine, passionate, stylish, individualistic, artistic, yellow and fuschia (very bright pink), liberating, opinionated, philosophy-based, life-changing, substantive, warm, contemporary, with it.
This is a side of naturals that continues to be associated with all the credibility and authority of naturals but also carries with it rich and ripe sensory, emotional and cultural associations and meanings.
The bright side of naturals is surprisingly stylish and design-orientated. Indeed, the foundations of its distinctive style quotient lie in an attitude to life that is absolutely at the cutting edge of modernity. It is more and more genuinely modern than clichéd/stereotype modern. This bright side of naturals embraces an overarching life philosophy that is in sync with and inspires its design philosophy. As a result, the bright side of naturals embraces choices that are passionate and with it, like:
linen over denim
ceramics over bone china
the beach run over the gym treadmill
juice over cola
environmental activism over biological engineering
happiness over success.
This bright side is a 'new age' stance to naturals that shares the credibility and authority of 'old' naturals, but with an incredibly complementing 'wind beneath its wings' kind of cultural and emotional resonance.
In a nutshell, the archaeology reveals that the surface meaning of naturals is uni-dimensional and 'dark', but the deeper meaning of naturals is multidimensional and 'bright'. The surface meaning of naturals is uni-dimensional – safe, traditional, knowledgeable products: seen as 'very good but not for me'. However, the deeper meaning of naturals is multi-dimensional (about a way of living) – it reveals that the world has moved from natural to 'being natural', seen as a 'new age way of being that inspires me'.
THE LITMUS LENS FOR AUDITING NATURALS
Voilà! The key to unlocking and then enlarging the appeal of naturals across businesses.
Much of the existing branding of naturals, if audited through the dark and light litmus lens of this thesis would reveal a simple binary split.
1. When a brand falls on the dark side of naturals, then it is building the natural appeal, but with a cultural resonance that is out of step with the category appeal at large. It is old-age and off-putting marketing, that slices 'advantage attitude' back to 'behavioural deuce'.
2. When a brand is on the bright side of naturals, it leverages the attitudinal, life choices and design philosophy that 'being natural' stands for. It has a beyond-product appeal that resonates with the culture and the times of 'being natural'. This makes for a brand that embodies not just the letter but also the contemporary spirit of 'being natural'. So it has a lift and a draw that is hugely attractive and potentially iconic.
HOW TO BE ON THE BRIGHT SIDE OF NATURALS
Some businesses and brands have begun to scratch the surface of 'being natural' – in India, for example, Fructis, Santoor, Khadi, Kerala Ayurvedic Massage, Margo; but there is a lot of ground to cover before they find their space in the sun. They can get there by stepping more fully into the bright side of naturals. Our archaeology has revealed life choices, design philosophy and individualism as the emotionale for naturals. These are the potential building blocks of the bright side.
Marketing has a rich canvas to draw on to build the bright side of naturals across product categories.
• Life choices: natural brands and businesses that build an association with causes, institutions, values that are about 'interesting', or 'took the road less travelled' choices are a natural fit – because naturals are associated with taking a higher way or more spiritual or alternative route on life's path. Thus associating natural brands with life choices or giving natural brands a credo about making 'higher' life choices would unleash a powerful emotionale for people to adopt them into their lives. Many people who lead mainstream lives would fulfil their desire for higher life choices at least vicariously in making product or service choices that ring truer and higher than their other life choices.
For example, I may not be able to express my environmental values in life, but I do always buy x because it is 100% organic and I value that. Body Shop was among the earliest beauty businesses to be built on a credo of no animal testing. It cashed in big time on a powerful, albeit latent, emotionale and went on to became a lighthouse brand (famous and well known even among those not knowing of that business) and a meteorically fast-growing business.
• Design philosophy: one of the other key embedded associations of naturals, and one that is very meaningful, is a high design orientation. First, this draws on the immensely majestic and prolific beauty of nature. Second, it relates to much of the truly modern, cutting-edge design, across categories, that has tended to be anchored in something natural, for example: in clothes – linen; in bags – jute; in lifestyle – items like ceramics, furniture such as South-East Asian wood; and so forth. So both from their natural world associations and design world associations, natural brands have a great fit for embodying a design philosophy.
Apple in the world of computers is a business built on outstanding design in everything from an orange/turquoise laptop to an asymmetrical mouse to a curvy keyboard. Its design philosophy underscores its overall credo of thinking different. Get this – natural businesses and brands have great potential to do an Apple. In fact more so than Apple – so centrally is design philosophy associated with being natural. Spa-like hotels have just begun to tap into this space.
• Individualism: the value of individualism is gaining currency and is associated with being contemporary because it stands for a high level of confidence and clarity of purpose. Individualism promises to be a powerful building block for creating iconic natural brands because naturals embody passionate belief, conviction, high standards, willingness to go against the crowd. These are the values that seem to get strongly associated with naturals as a category and are very akin to the values of individualism.
People will happily and contentedly make natural brand choices that enable them to fuel their hunger for individualism, at least vicariously. This insight can be used in many ways, not the least of which is associating a business with appropriate brand ambassadors. For example, Rolex is a brand that associates itself with successful performers (and gets to be seen as one itself). Natural brands have as great a fit, potentially, to be associated with individualism. The point here is to present the discriminating lens for picking ambassadors for natural brands (not the usual glamour and fame) but blazing individualism, conviction and enough self-belief to go against the crowd. Someone with all of the above? He or she is a natural, so hurry! How about 'Angelina Jolie for Khadi'? Wouldn't that make the Versace wannabes do a u-turn?
BE BRIGHT, BE RIGHT
The revelation of deep embedded meanings and associations of naturals as an incredibly attractive and appealing new-age choice that encompasses life choices, design philosophies, spirited individualism, gives a powerful resonance to what 'being natural' really is. And it is there for us to mine – and to do so in all aspects of a natural business: brand, product, promotion, packaging, communication, and so forth. In sum, natural products may have been discovered in the long past, the dark ages; however natural brands are potentially new age, bright and iconic, if we take naturals out of the dark side. Marketers, are you building the (b)right side of naturals? It surely is a most curious thing.
Reprinted with permission from Businessworld, India's largest selling and most widely read business magazine (www.businessworld.in).
NOTES & EXHIBITS
Shaziya Khan is vice president and strategic planning director at JWT, a WPP company. Based in the India office she is currently involved with a regional planning assignment on Unilever brands.