A fair question. Canada’s certified organic food and non-alcoholic beverage market was worth $3 billion in 2012 – tripling since 2006. To help consumers understand where some of this cash is flowing for Organic Week 2014, Unicycle Creative was commissioned by organic food manufacturer and distributor Left Coast Naturals to design an infographic. For this example we used industry estimations to compare a 200g bag of organic granola produced by a mid-sized local company, with the same product produced by a large conventional manufacturer. To learn more, check out the Left Coast Naturals blog.
September 24th, 2014 · 1 Comment
September 23rd, 2014 · No Comments
As a sustainability marketer, I attend a variety of events that wouldn’t get most people off their couch. To be honest, I thought the Metro Vancouver Zero Waste Conference 2014 might be one of those, as I pictured a room full of trash academics debating diversion rates. But it turned out to be a lot more big-picture visionary than I had anticipated, and I left quite motivated. Here are a few of the high points of the day’s pile of information. Hope you dig them.
1. Waste is Food.
Here’s a brutal stat: More than 30% of our food is wasted before reaching the consumer. Wouldn’t it be great to be able to repurpose all that wasted nutrition? Enterra Feeds is a BC company that takes discarded food, and turns it into sustainable protein and oils, (to feed fish and livestock), and a natural organic fertilizer. It does this with the help of the Soldier Fly larva – a big greasy pupa that eats the food and converts it into oils. Gross? Heck, yeah. But not to the larva, to animals that ultimately get the feed, or to investors.
That’s just one example. A big part of the conference agenda was devoted to the Circular Economy (which is actually more of a butterfly shape, as the chart illustrates – find out more on the Metro Van blog here). This is the ‘new’ way of thinking, actually pioneered by billions of years of evolving species before us, that says there really is no such thing as waste. Every output from one system should be nutrients for another. The only thing disposable is the concept of disposability itself.
That’s why for Metro Vancouver, banning organics from the landfill and getting people to divert their food scraps is a major priority.
2. Vancouver is shipping garbage to the US – and People Don’t Like Incinerators.
OK, that’s two things. But the fact that they have been lumped together is part of the problem, so please bear with me. During a networking break, I spoke with Paul Henderson, General Manager of Solid Waste Services at Metro Vancouver. He filled me in on how private waste haulers are bypassing municipal recycling and disposal regulations by shipping their trash out of the region. A recent Vancouver Sun article describes how haulers are fined here for banned items in their loads, and as a result, find it cheaper to truck trash up the valley, greenhouse gasses and all. In response, Metro is pushing the BC Minister of Environment to approve bylaw 280, which would require that garbage generated in Metro Vancouver be processed at regional facilities – a plan supported by many local recycling companies and organizations.
Meanwhile, Metro Vancouver is also looking at constructing a larger waste-to energy incineration facility, a move that received expressions of broad disapproval by almost everyone at the conference.
Now, opponents of bylaw 280 are linking the two issues, using ‘Stop the Incinerator’ initiatives to put pressure on government to reject the bylaw, so they can continue to ship waste and avoid the fines.
Paul Henderson says the incinerator is not a done deal, but that we need the bylaw to support our common goals. I fully support the bylaw, but methinks they are going to have to publicly de-couple those two issues.
3. Plastic is everywhere. Yet most people know nothing about it.
Could you pick polypropylene out of a pile of ABS? Which is better for recycling, PET or expanded polystyrene? According to presenter Mike Biddle, from MBA Polymers, humans now produce an consume more plastics than steel. Yet the reuse rate of plastics is only about 8%. And that’s largely a sorting problem.
Mike took us through some of the sophisticated ‘processes’ used in the developing world to sort and recycle plastic, such as burning it and smelling the fumes. Then he showed everyone pictures of his big, shiny, global plastics recycling facilities where the job is done more effectively. Several of the audience speculated on how nice it would be to have a facility that that here in BC.
Biddle, though no market interventionist, stated that to do that, society and governments would need to ‘prime the pump’ to help encourage the use of recycled plastics in product design and production.
Seems to me like we need to start with a little Plastic Literacy first. Maybe that would be a future communications goal for the Metro Vancouver team.
All in all, there was a lot more information and future envisioning at Zero Waste 2014 than I could encapsulate here. So watch their website, they are planning to host some video recaps of the presentations.
In the meantime, keep on separating that waste and recycling. Currently, about 55% of our garbage is recycled. Metro is aiming for 70% by 2015, and 80% by 2020.
September 4th, 2014 · No Comments
It was the early 1600′s. The Catholic Church, ie, government of the day, was opposed to the radical new idea that the earth was NOT the center of the Universe. The Copernican view, that the Earth revolves around the sun, was considered heresy. The infamous radical astronomer Galileo (himself a Catholic) was tried by the Roman Inquisition and forced to recant his views and spend the rest of his life under house arrest.
In a similar way today, climate scientists employed by the Canadian Federal Government (well, by taxpayers, really) are being told they no longer have the right to speak freely to the media or public, or they might just face their own form of house arrest – unemployed. In 2012, the Privy Council Office, an arm of the Prime Minister’s office, put the big freeze on Canadian scientists wanting to spread the news of the greatest summer arctic ice melt levels on record.
Neither the Vatican or the Harper Government can win at this game in the long term. Because natural systems don’t play politics. They just keep on doing their thing, as the evidence stacks up. Or melts away.
August 28th, 2014 · 1 Comment
The vines are so close to the driveway I could pick grapes out the car window. A rooster runs by and I wonder if I’ve made a wrong turn. Then, a short distance ahead, I see other cars parked between a farmhouse and a small rustic wooden barn.
This is the Clos du Soleil winery, one of the Similkameen Valley’s secret treasures. Judging by the Thursday afternoon crowd buzzing around Tasting Room Manager Jesce Walker, its status as an undiscovered brand is already in jeopardy.
I’m at Clos du Soleil to find out a few things – like how a french style winery came to be in this remote southern BC valley; why the word ‘organic’ doesn’t appear on their labels or website; and what is their long-term vision for this upstart brand?
What ‘Clos du Soleil’ is French for.
The winery’s French roots come from owner Spencer Massie’s experiences in Europe.
“Spencer wanted to bring Bordeaux flavours to BC and infuse them with the terroir of the Similkameen,” Walker tells me as she pours, “A ‘clos’ is a rock wall, or enclosure traditionally found in French country yards, and ‘Soleil’ is the sun. The rock cliffs behind the winery absorb the sun’s heat and reflect it back, ‘enclosing’ the sun for the benefit of the vines. Clos du Soleil a microclimate within the microclimate of the Similkameen Valley.”
We begin the tasting with a black label Fumé Blanc. My palate is good enough to notice the grapefruit and pineapple tones, but I just nod knowingly when Jesce refers to notes of lemongrass and make a note to steal the term.
The wine label colours are a clue to their brand category. Black labels are the approachable everyday drink-right-away wines. Gold labels indicate collaborations with other vineyards and the white label Clos du Soleil wines are the ones you want to stock away in your cellar for a few years. A logical hierarchy, if perhaps a little mysterious to the consumer.
Is ‘organic’ a bad word?
I put this question directly to Jesce, wondering why it doesn’t appear on their labels or website. She assures me they are known for organic growing and people do feel good buying and drinking organically-grown wines, just as they do shopping for organic food. (Clos du Soleil does add sulfites, so even through the grapes are grown organically, the wines themselves are not certified organic)
“I think in the past, people got the idea that organic equaled poor age-ability,” says Jesce, “Now when I pour them our wines that are two or three years old, people are amazed at their richness and complexity.”
The tasting moves to a crisp rosé made from Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. This starts off with a classic rosé strawberry patch nose, but has a surprisingly earthy finish. Jesce tells me the Similkameen Valley has volcanic clay ash soil, similar to that in regions of France (and unlike the more glacial sandy soil of the Okanagan) That is what gives these wines more rich minerality.
Grapes first, brand later.
As we move into the reds, I delve deeper into the topic of brand vision.
“When Clos du Soleil started, the focus was purely on growing the grapes,” Jesce continues, “Our 10 acres of vines are certified organic, and we also work with the principles of Biodynamics.”
This approach to growing includes tending the vines with the phases of the moon and, in a delightfully pagan-sounding ritual, burying animal horns full of manure to re-energize the soil with its naturally occurring microbes. Another story that bears more fruitful telling.
“Now we are planning to build a new tasting room, and can concentrate more on getting customers involved with our brand,” Jesce says as she pours a rich merlot. “For example, we see more and more people in their 20’s here, looking to learn more about wine.”
I compare this to the burgeoning craft beer market, and ask if Clos du Soleil plans to compete in the creative name and label trend that has brought so many unique brands to the Okanagan.
“No, we want our look to stay more classic, with a sense of elegance.” Jesce pauses to check on the roosters outside who have recently fended off an unleashed dog. “It’s our vision one day to have a Clos du Soleil wine served in one fine restaurant in every country in the world.”
The wines certainly seem capable of standing on their own, and it helps that the Similkameen was recently named by enRoute Magazine as “one of the world’s 5 best wine regions you’ve never heard of”. But is French-style elegance enough?
Cellaring the brand.
I can’t help but think there is a more unique, rustic and and authentic brand story here. A story that somehow expands on the term ‘elegance’, to embrace everything from the volcanic rock cliffs to the kittens and roosters that prowl the farmhouse yard. Not to mention the warm, genuine hospitality.
And perhaps, properly told, the organically-grown and biodynamic story could open doors in many fine restaurants across the globe, too.
Whatever Clos du Soleil decides to do with their brand evolution, As I savour the raspberry reduction overtones of the Grower’s Series Guild Merlot, something tells me they are going to have to build a bigger parking lot.
August 6th, 2014 · No Comments
The Mount Polley Mine Environmental Disaster, as it’s soon and forevermore likely to be known, has thrown into sharp focus the incredible liability the mining industry faces whenever they decide to store a toxic swamp full of lead, cadmium, arsenic and whatever other delightful chemical combinations these elements can create. (Which is pretty much every time a copper/gold mine is built these days)
Yet BC Mining Companies continue to pressure governments, at home and abroad, for less and less environmental oversight. And when governments like the BC Liberals oblige, everyone loses.
(And if you think these are just the ravings of a left-of-center hippie cartoonist, read Stephen Hume’s Vancouver Sun column on the subject. He’s hardly what you call a card-carrying eco radical)
Perhaps if we made mining companies bear the true costs of extracting gold, copper, silver, zinc, aluminum, platinum and other metals that are so in demand for our high-tech lifestyle, the e-waste recycling business model would prove more attractive.
July 28th, 2014 · No Comments
OK, everybody in Canada knows we pay some of the highest cell phone fees in the world. Our government has even gone so far as to pass legislation to reduce these levels of parasitic extortion (a superficial ploy to appease the weary consumer vote that has actually resulted in HIGHER mobile bills… but I digress)
The point is, NOBODY in Canada is happy to receive their monthly shakedown from the Big Three. So when I got my ROGERS bill in the email box this month, something in me snapped.
“YOUR ONLINE BILL IS READY” it screams, in all-caps-text-shout. And look – here is a happy photo of a girl demonstrating your proper response as a consumer of our Most Magnificent Services. Open your computer! Sigh with contentment! Click the ‘Pay Now’ button! OH JOY!!!
Really, ROGERS? Do you think your customers are all drooling idiots?
The way I see it, there are two reasons for this waste of my criminally overpriced bandwidth:
A) This the result of some thoroughly-researched and tested ROGERS Evil Customer Subordination Plan™ that has found corporate male customers over the age of 50 will be so enchanted by a young professional female with intelligent-looking glasses, we won’t even feel ROGERS reaching for our wallets. (Presumably women, and men who identify as gay, will receive a square-jawed male version of the image, with just enough smoulder in his gaze to let them know he could be a bad boy in the right circumstances)
B) Image selection for customer e-mails has been handed off to a design division that has neither the time nor the initiative to go beyond the first page of stock photo results for “happy technology consumer”
Frankly, I’m not sure which is more insulting.
But, as we here at Green Briefs and Unicycle Creative are all about solutions, let’s look at the 90% of this glass that is not full yet. What could ROGERS do with this opportunity?
How about helping some people out with this valuable space? Scrolling down to the very bottom of my ‘MyROGERS’ page, I found a musty, cobweb-encrusted link for The ROGERS Youth Fund. It’s a worthy-looking initiative that helps support a wide variety of groups across the country.
What if this valuable space were offered to groups within the program to help profile their initiatives and share some of their stories? Would this be too confusing for bill-payers? Would it look too much like a calculated corporate softening of the wireless payment pain? I don’t know. Perhaps some Evil marketing Bot™ could make that prediction.
But for my money, it would be a whole lot better than a corporate photo model smirking at my stupidity for being just another helpless Canadian wireless consumer.
What do you think?
PS. No offense intended to the woman who innocently posed for the original ROGERS photo, stock or otherwise. You are, in all likelihood, a very nice person. The stupidity originates with the network.
June 23rd, 2014 · No Comments
You know electric power has hit the mainstream when legendary motorcycle maker Harley-Davidson builds an electron-powered bike. That’s right, Project LiveWire is the latest prototype badass e-bike to hit the road, on a promo tour in select iconic locations. It’s got I’m-the-meanest-electric-bike-on-the-road styling and if anyone can build a cool, battery heavy ride it’s got to be Harley.
Some are saying this will be the ‘halo’ bike that will bring rebel legitimacy to the charge-up category. But without the tooth-rattling car-alarm-triggering iconic V-twin sound, I think we need more. Some cult-building grandma-scaring brand art that will make people think twice as they don’t hear you rattling down their dusty main street.
I give you the e-bike tattoo sketch gallery V1.0
Now you’ll only need to stop at the gas station for smokes. And you’ll have more money to buy ‘em, too.
Go ahead. Sell all our tar sands bitumen to China. We don’t need it. The US don’t need no Keystone XL either. And while we’re at it, screw you, OPEC.
Not all tattoos have to have such attitude. Lots of moms, dads and grandparents can ride with e-pride, too. How about a having happy hog on your shoulder? It’s brand-ready for a Disney cross-promo.
For anyone who has been jarred awake in the middle of the night with the jumbo-jet flatulence of a Harley with straight pipe exhausts, this will be a welcome brand update. Thunder is like, a state of mind, baby. Ride softly but carry a big charger.
This is actually a Harley-Davidson slogan from 2008. It was supposed to be their flip-of-the-bird to all the economic crisis woes. But it kind of works for Big Oil, too.
Of course, tattoos don’t have to be limited to Harley e-Bike owners. As a species we can all get behind the idea. So put a little Brando in your Brammo. Add a little zip to your Zero. Or even put some muscle in your Motorino.
But this is just a start. I officially throw down the gauntlet to REAL tattoo artists out there. Let’s give all e-motorcycles a bit more street cred.
June 15th, 2014 · No Comments
Though it is the mega-corporations who dominate the headlines, small business is one of the key drivers of the sustainable world economy. In 2012, self-employment climbed 3.6 per cent in Canada, with 95,600 individuals accounting for almost 40 per cent of new jobs created in that time. And whether you are hanging your shingle as a consultant or building a global business model starting with one employee, a solid brand is a key step to global (or neighborhood) domination.
Here are three examples of personal branding projects with different approaches to making their mark.
Appeal to Your Target Market’s Values.
As a Vancouver-based consultant with global experience in public health and environmental conservation, James Boothroyd has too many credentials to list in a tagline. But one thing he shares with his prospects is a strong belief and dedication to making things better. “I am a Boy Scout at heart, and an intellectual” says Jim. Both of these qualities are evident in his clean, bespectacled logo, and Boothroyd Consulting tagline – “Let’s change the world.”
If you have a strong set of values, and they help to tell your story and sell your services, don’t be afraid to put them right on your brand sleeve. A personal brand can be just that – highly personal. (Any prospects you turn off are likely to be a poor fit for your practice anyway) Just remember to prioritize your values and key messages with your customers’ needs in mind.
Use a Sense of Humor, But Keep Your Brand Solid.
Anybody who has worked with Chris Malthaner in his Sea-to-Sky trade area knows he can be a pretty funny guy. But there’s no joking when it comes to the quality of his craftsmanship. So on his trucks, and at the work site, Malthaner Custom Construction delivers its message with a smile. But the logo and brand clearly communicate strength, precision and good taste. “When I am taking down a 100-foot tree, or planning the construction of a Whistler home, there’s no joking around,” says Malthaner, “But in the Sea-to-Sky corridor, life and work are closely linked, and it’s important to have fun at both.”
If you prefer to sell with a smile, choose the right communication tools for that job. Where will people appreciate some humour? Where is a straight message more appropriate? Make sure your overall brand identity reflects the tone that is most relevant to your central market advantage.
Build a Brand That Goes Beyond Your Name.
When personal coach Mark Cannon decided to ramp up his practice, he ended up moving to a name that has individual appeal, but a lot of potential for brand expansion. “Unicycle Creative guided me through the Brand Centering process, allowing me to identify what I really wanted for the business,” says Mark, “The outcome was LifeBlend Coaching. A name that helps differentiate me from other coaching businesses, and has a brand persona with potential to go further.”
Do you want to build a business that will go beyond your personal brand? Consider finding a company name that sets you up for success and can be passed on to other operators, franchisees or even owners. Look for a name that will let you start a conversation. (With LifeBlend, it’s an easy opener to ask people how their life blend is these days) Just know that in a world of over a half-a-billion websites, a unique name can be hard to come by. Best to get professional help with that.
Whatever goals you have for your personal brand, take the time to engage in a branding process and develop a good design platform. You’re worth it.
The brand examples above are from the Unicycle Creative portfolio. If you want to know more about personal or corporate brand development, visit the Unicycle Creative website.
June 1st, 2014 · No Comments
Over the past few months in Vancouver, an intriguing idea was spelled out at the North end of the Granville Street Bridge. The word Gesamtkunstwerk was emblazoned in tasteful neon, atop a copper-clad building easily visible to all southbound traffic. So what was the meaning of this 15-letter German Scrabble masterstroke?
Gesamtkunstwerk is defined as ‘Life as a Total Work of Art’. To their credit, the developer, Westbank, and the architect, New York based BIG, actually created an engaging, intelligent space that merged architecture salon and sales center. Upon entering the museum-like hall, visitors (after registering of course) were welcome to browse a free exhibition of ‘Vancouverism’ featuring a genuine 1955 Arthur Erickson sketch. Through a complimentary audio tour, visitors also experienced firsthand the challenges and dedication involved in bringing a residential tower to life on a unique building site.
A series of events was held in the space, featuring visionaries such as James K. M. Cheng, Larry Beasley and Mike Harcourt. Almost 20,000 people attended the exhibit and events, becoming immersed in the concept of Gesamtkunstwerk, and in its expression as Vancouver House – a gravity-defying 52-storey tower that rises from a triangular footprint to form a curtain-like gateway to the downtown peninsula.
Vancouver House is also one of the first developments to feature an innovative social housing model that buys a home in a third-world country for every home purchased here. World Housing, the brainchild of real estate marketing gentleman Peter Dupuis, gifts a micro-home to a worthy family living in a dump community through an amazing group of dedicated partnerships and people.
Yes, the end result is indeed, another tower. But by offering a free, inclusive look at a larger architectural vision that also celebrates Vancouver’s origins, a greater sense of grandeur, presence and even social license has been created. The exhibition has now evolved into a display of the fine detail and finish of Vancouver House, and no doubt a fair number of the almost 20,000 prospects will be interested in investing.
The true market for Vancouver House is global, but by offering to educate, illuminate and include Vancouver citizens, Westbank and Vancouver House have also paved the way for success right here at home.
May 28th, 2014 · No Comments
Beyond lettuce, vermillion paint and stuffed frogs, defining ‘green’ for products can be difficult. First of all, the word itself has no agreed-upon definition. Should it refer to recycled, local, energy-saving, or involve a complete life cycle assessment to the molecular level? Perhaps the solution is not to judge.
What’s the Green Deal?, the sustainability brand for London Drugs, developed and guided by Unicycle Creative , has never proposed to be a certification system. Maintaining the brand itself as a question means the team should always be looking to find out more, and share knowledge with customers.
As What’s the Green Deal? has evolved, it became evident that it would naturally move further up the supply chain. Working with Reeve Consulting, a purchasing policy specialist, London Drugs recently formalized the product attributes and qualities it expects from vendors. Unicycle Creative is involved in naming and communicating the program, as well as developing the vendor document system for collecting product information.
From Certifications to Common Sense
The What’s the Green Deal? Responsible Purchasing evaluation process works on several levels:
- Third Party Certifications – Recognized standards like Canada Organic, FairTrade Certified, Energy Star and EcoLogo let the team know that other organizations have done their homework.
- Self-Declared Environmental Claims – London Drugs will recognize vendor claims if the documentation and website evidence appears to back them up. Recycled content, biodegradability and natural ingredients are examples of such claims.
- Transparency – Can all ingredients and materials (including categories like colour and fragrance) be sourced on the packaging or the company website? Transparency is one of the key factors in engaging genuine green trust. Especially on any products that go in, on, or around our families.
- Corporate Responsibility – It’s hard to buy green products from a brown company. Social and environmental programs at the corporate level, company vision and other policies play a part. CSR reports and certifications such as B-Corporation are designed to formalize these policies.
- It’s just greener. Duh. – Sometimes green just makes sense. Rechargeable batteries, compost containers and other products that help people live a little greener are worth pointing out.
If you want to find out more, visit GreenDeal.ca to see London drugs’ Responsible Purchasing Policy.
Just keep greening.
Here’s where we spout the obligatory ‘sustainability is a journey, not a destination’ line. Trite, but true. As standards evolve, What’s the Green Deal? will evolve with them. Hopefully helping create so many green products we won’t be able to feature them all.