Despite Economy, Brands Optimistic At Sustainable Brands Conference 2009 6


More than 700 brand marketers, advertisers and communications professionals are meeting in Monterey, CA this week for the fifth annual Sustainable Brands conference. Today I sat in a few of the morning presentations from some of the larger brand leaders such as Clorox and PepsiCo to hear more about some of their successful sustainable marketing campaigns.

While Clorox touted the success of their new GreenWorks line of natural cleaning products and their number one ranking in a recent consumer perception study about sustainable brands, PepsiCo’s Director of Marketing for Sunchip Thomas Oh promoted the world’s first fully compostable chip bag (to be accurate, currently only the outer most layer of the chip bag is bio-degradable but the company is working to make the entire bag 100 percent compostable by 2010).

What I found interesting was that both companies focused a lot of their presentation on the traditional marketing campaign elements – TV spots, print ads and product tours – and while Sunchip’s Oh briefly mentioned how a tweet by celebrity Demi Moore stimulated hundreds of tweets in the Twitterverse and more than 115 million impressions in only three days, both presentations would have been far more timely and interesting if they had discussed the role and power of social media in their respective campaigns. While seeing touchy-feely TV spots of women and families munching on “solar-powered chips” may be entertaining, wouldn’t it be much more compelling if the audience heard about the actual consumer conversations that are now taking place around their products, and what key learnings are being applied to the improved ability to emotionally connect consumers to products via social media?

The two presentations that actually featured some compelling examples that highlight the power of social media came from Blair Shane, chief marketing officer of the new California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, and Steve Newcomb, CEO of Virgance.

Tasked with “reinventing” a 150 year old institution into a thriving, rich and relevant consumer experience for visitors of all ages, Shane is successfully using social media tools as the single channel to communicate to and attract more than 4,000 young adults to the Academy for Night Life, an evening of music, cocktails and science each Thursday night.

Newcomb presented a distinct vision for what he calls the opportunity of a lifetime to make sustainability our generation’s greatest achievement. By creating Virgance, a company that effectively combines capitalism and activism, Newcomb debuted his latest venture – Lend Me Some Sugar, an American Idol-like “TV” program for sustainability that will be produced on Facebook. With Newcomb mentioning data that Facebook will have roughly the same demographics and size as the mainstream TV audience in as little as two years (he estimated between 250-300M users), Newcomb is betting on Facebook as the new channel to motivate consumers and reward advertisers.

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