We recently completed some blog updates for the London Drugs What’s the Green Deal? program, to help recognize some recent achievements and help customers feel the sustainable love. In the past, we have concentrated on longer-form articles for the GreenDeal.ca blog. These perform well, both from an SEO perspective, and for creating a searchable online database of usable information. But sometimes you want to get the point across in a quicker, more engaging and, hopefully, sharable way.
The first message was designed to let people know that their recycling efforts at London Drugs are making a difference, by sharing a milestone recently achieved by the unique in-store Styrofoam recycling and Bring Back the Pack program. With over 200,000lbs recycled to date, it’s a great story. We used Google and good old-fashioned calculator math to figure out just how many coffee cups that actually represents.
The second post was our Green Valentine – an ode to sustainability, recognizing that romance can be eco-friendly, too.
Unicycle Creative recently had the opportunity to create another magazine ad for long-time client BRODA® Coatings, to run in the Quebec market. Maison 21, a magazine focused on home design and construction, is the publication. This particular issue focused on the hot topic of renovations.
We decided to reach out to our homeowner and contractor target market with the built-in truths of renovation (the chaos) and link this with one of our main product benefits (easy maintenance). The sketch for the idea, originally envisioned as a photograph, inspired the client to ask if we could test a cartoon look for the finished execution.
To avoid any linguistic complications, we kept the headline straightforward and informational, letting the cartoon do the work of adding the charm and engagement factor. The headline reads something to the effect of, “By the time you finish renovating, you’ll be glad you chose a finish this easy to maintain.”
Cartoons have an easy appeal, and can often be a great way to address painful subject matter in a non-threatening way. As multiple language marketing opportunities continue to grow, it’s worth keeping this tried, tested and fun option in your brand toolkit.
Through our www.cbrproducts.com/QC landing page, we can track results from this campaign fairly easily, so we will let you know how many characters decide to ask for some free samples. And if you know anyone in Quebec who is renovating, feel free to forward this along. It just might offer them a ray of hope.
Your CEO may not be interested in spending extra money to save the world’s forests, but if everything else were equal, (including price), who wouldn’t choose to hug a tree?
The Wheat Sheet is an office-grade paper that offers the same quality, appearance and performance of regular paper, but uses less trees, produces less carbon and is cost-competitive with other 30% recycled ‘tree’ papers. Wheat Sheet contains 60% wheat straw residue from the wheat farming process, 35% recycled FSC Certified wood fibre from the plywood industry and 5% FSC Certified plantation fibre.
It is marketed by Social Print Paper, a company of self-described ‘Competitive Social Entrepreneurs’.
“Many sustainable products are asking consumers to pay 20, 30 or even 40% more. We want to break that model,” says Social Print Partner Minto Roy, “I also hope we can change the ideology that says paper has to be made from trees.”
At present, the paper is made at a mill in Northern India. Predictably, the labour costs there make it profitable, but it’s also a matter of having the specialized equipment to process the wheat straw from the farming process.
Photo: Minto Roy
The team at Social Print has visited the plant, and reports that their employment and safety standards are strong enough for another of their major customers: Wal-Mart. Furthermore, according to a life cycle assessment recently completed with TruCost, the Wheat Sheet still delivers a measurable carbon footprint improvement, even when shipping is factored into the equation.
For the average company, the carbon footprint of their paper may not be that material to their overall impact, but an organization like a major university can be a different story. Based on using 70 Million sheets of paper in a year, a university such as UBC can reduce their carbon emissions by 381,000kg and save almost 8,000 trees, by using Wheat Sheet instead of virgin fiber paper. That’s no small amount, and well worth considering in an overall corporate carbon reduction strategy.
So look for the ‘agri-paper’ movement to start to take off. Pretty soon you could be more concerned with your paper’s gluten count than its carbon footprint.
On a dark, rainy November night in Vancouver’s Yaletown, lovers of beer and design gathered to raise a glass to better packaging. Appropriately, the ‘Nice Package’ invitation to this Print and a Pint event, hosted by Hemlock Printers, featured that icon of Canadian brewing, the stubby bottle.
Those of us old enough to remember dragging a case of these rotund vessels to a party may feel a swell of nostalgia. In a world of long-necked beer elegance, the stubby now looks rather like a favorite old uncle, sitting in the corner telling stories from the 70′s and smelling faintly of unfiltered Player’s tobacco. Yet this unassuming party-goer has more going for him than portly vintage charm. Efficient to transport and stack, and able to resist breakage while falling from a formica table, the humble stubby was the only single-serving bottle sold in Canada from 1961 to 1984.
But back to Print and a Pint, featuring David Walker from St. Bernadine Mission, Brian Dougherty from Celery Design and Beth Corbett from Neenah Paper. We got a look under the hood at the research-intensive process behind St. Bernadine’s Original 16 beer package design, and Celery’s efforts to make the world’s most sustainable LED light bulb package.
Attendees also got a chance to try their hand at designing their own beer label, as the Print and a Pint invitation (by Unicycle Creative) featured a punch-out coaster with a blank-labeled stubby bottle just waiting to be envisioned.
This was not the first homage to the short round beer bottle. Douglas Copeland featured it on the cover of his 2002 book, Souvenir of Canada, and it has made a recent local comeback with pacific Western Brewery’s Scandal Organic Ale and Lager. But its days as a sustainable standardized package are, alas, long gone.
Big Canadian breweries now mostly use a standard brown long-necked bottle, and still collect and refill them, on average, 15-20 times (according to the Brewers’ Association of Canada). Though the abundance of modern bottle designs and colours no doubt makes this less efficient than it once was. (In the U.S. most bottles are crushed, melted and re-formed, a much more energy-intensive and wasteful process, and some states still don’t have a beverage deposit and return system at all)
So can more standardized design make a comeback? Will the need for resource and energy efficiency win out over our desires for personal expression and individuality? Whatever your answer, one thing is certain. The stubby, once a sign of enforced ubiquity, has now ironically become a symbol of beer-geek uniqueness.
Cheers to that.
To find out more about Print and a Pint, visit Hemlock.com
I am a big Apple fan. I spend the majority of my day writing, designing and producing on Apple devices. In Christmases past, I have handed down my ‘old’ laptop and iPhone to my 13-year old boy. Yet along with my enthusiasm for all this creative technology comes a gnawing fear that I am enabling my teen-child with all the tools he needs to become another disconnected, slack-jawed digital drone. So Apple’s new christmas ad stopped me in my tracks.
‘Misunderstood’ does a brilliant job of helping me to explain to my son the difference between digital CONSUMPTION and digital CREATION. As I say to him, when he plays a video game, watches YouTube or scans Facebook posts, he is a consumer of creative product. A willing receptacle for messages and images generated by others. But if he takes a photo, makes a movie or creates a song, his brain kicks into a completely different mode, enabling him to share HIS ideas with the world.
(Spoiler Alert!) I told my son to watch ‘Misunderstood’ and see the difference in perception and emotional connection from the beginning of the spot, when everyone thinks the teen character is ignoring their family Christmas, to the reveal, where we see that he was connecting and ultimately sharing, in his own creative way. Then imagine how the spot would have been if that character had NOT made the Beautiful Family Movie… dark, depressing and ultimately empty.
My son, to his credit, replied “But don’t you have to consume to create?”
Yes, it’s a balance. We all need the inspiration, education, delight and relaxation that comes from absorbing the (hopefully high-quality) creations of others. But as with all things in life, it is balance we must continually seek.
I hope the whole world embraces Apple’s Christmas message. If you have a phone with a camera, take some pictures. Make a movie. Share it with people. If not, maybe just write a letter, draw a picture or sing a song.
Christmas has become a time to consume, but it’s also the perfect time to create.
I was forwarded the video below from one of my sustainable marketing colleagues, and when I saw the brand name ‘Michelin’ I was expecting a large, bold, global brand approach to tire sustainability. What I saw was a whiteboard video that looked like it might have come from the local tire repair shop. So is Michelin’s sustainability communications budget smaller than their annual corporate bill for paper clips? Or is there a larger agenda at work here?
The strategy behind the information is pretty solid; take the discussion to a level beyond that of mere tires, with the term ‘Sustainable Mobility’; address the key issue of tire use in the product lifestyle; offer some tips for viewers on how they can reduce their own impact. Though they could have gone deeper on how they are improving their manufacturing impacts (if at all) or addressing any of their own social impact programs (if any).
But it’s the tone and manner of the piece that intrigues me. Is a homespun message more believable than a big brand statement? Does a high production value equate with corporate spin? I am certainly a fan of the human-scale, animated message. (See the ‘SustainaFOODability’ video done by Unicycle Creative for Left Coast Naturals) Yet, as the Guardian put it in a recent article, “Sustainability isn’t something soft and cuddly that executives do to salve their consciences. It’s about managing the non-financial risks to your business and firming up your future competitiveness and resilience.” Does the Michelin video communicate that facet of the issue?
As always, I’m curious. What do you think of the warmer, smaller-scale approach for larger brands – is it… ‘Sizewashing?’
Creating a brand is like having a child; a flash of passion followed by months of discomfort, culminating in the birth of something you hope will one day grow up to support you. Or at least not spend you dry and dent your car.
Naming companies, programs or products can be one of marketing’s most creative and rewarding opportunities. Or it can be a bottomless time-vacuum.
To avoid the latter, here are three questions that may help get your bed-wetting bundle of business love off to a well-named start.
What’s your story?
The best names often encourage the reader to ask ‘why?’ This is a much stronger question than ‘what do you do?’ The chance to engage a prospect with your brand story is one of the most powerful opportunities in marketing.
In the case of ‘Sole’, a boutique coffee produced on a single farm in Costa Rica, the name means the same thing in English and Spanish – the ‘sole’ or only producer. Sole also happens to be the name of the Mamacita of the farm itself. This name led us to use photos of the actual farmers on the packaging, offering a sense of local pride that stretched all the way to the shelf.
How different is good?
Being another Robert, Jane or Jack comes with its comforts. A strong, stable, familiar name puts you in good company and is not likely to encourage taunts around the playground. But in the corporate world, the familiar may not stand out on a resume or in a busy market scape, either. Businesses also face the complex challenge of trademark. Get too close to a competitor’s registered name with your corporate baby and you could be quick pen pals with their law firm.
Online marketing is another reason to look at staking out new naming turf. Securing a strong series of web domains is tougher and tougher these days, and in a crowded market space your SEO could be confounded. I often recommend considering names that have a lateral connection to the category; that at first glance seem unusual, but upon further reflection, make a lot of sense. Fresh Canvas Spa is a good example of this. To begin with, the spa started up in a building that for decades was home to a local art gallery. We made the new instantly familiar while opening up a whole range of possibilities in the customers‘ imagination.
Will it grow on you?
Many of the most successful names I have worked on have not been big client favorites right out of the gate. I like to compare this to the ‘B-Side’ album effect (for those retro enough to get the metaphor) The pop song you heard and instantly liked often wears quickly. It’s the quirky track further back in the album that gets its hooks into you, speaking to your life stages even more meaningfully as years progress. OCION was one such name. As the identity for a water clean-tech company, it evokes a global image of vast horizons of pure H20, while incorporating the ions that are at the heart of the technology. When first presented, some thought it too unusual, and difficult to pronounce. But it has gradually won over its detractors, and is now leading the re-branded company into a larger market future. (You can find out more about the process here)
That’s what I always try to coax out of a brand identity – a focus not on who a company is, but who it wants to be. Your name should have layers of meaning that can unfold as the company or product matures. It should grow to surprise and delight you, taking on a life of its own that will make you proud to say you brought it into the world.
We have all seen painful tightly-scripted talking head videos, detailing how the company is responding proactively and looking towards the future, blah-de blah-de blah… A more effective approach can be to simply have a conversation, and capture key moments that really tell the tale. This takes dedication to the art of interviewing, and a lot of time in editing, but it’s well worth it for more authentic, relaxed results. If you want to create an unscripted video story of your own, here are 3 steps to get you started.
Step 1: Prepare for the Interview. Draft talking notes around issues you want to cover and get them approved. I often put these in the form of a script ‘outline’, being sure to mark it ‘OUTLINE ONLY – ACTUAL DIALOGUE TO BE TAKEN FROM INTERVIEWS’ Create a logical flow, but prepare everyone to be flexible.
Step 2: Interview with dedicated curiosity. Ask questions that lead your subject to tell the story in their own words. Then ask again in a different way. Look for topics that bring out passion and watch for lines or phrases that resonate. It’s OK to ask them to repeat something they said in a slightly different way. Take as much time as you can, and cover things more than you think you need to.
Step 3: Look for the Gold. This can be the toughest part – identifying the best bits from hours of footage and stringing them together to form a narrative. I like to look for the most passionate ‘openers’ and ‘closers’ and build around that. Be prepared to re-arrange the whole thing to a different format than your outline if that’s where the material leads. Don’t worry about having too many cuts in the interview – that’s where the rest of the beautiful footage goes!
In the examples posted here, a series of videos Unicycle Creative recently directed for the London Drugs What’s the Green Deal? program, we put COO Clint Mahlman in the unscripted interview chair. Clint is one of that rare species of executive who is both committed to a more sustainable path, and plugged in to the real-world issues that can make it happen.
Working with the London Drugs Media Services team, we talked with Clint for several hours on a sunny day in a green ravine. We also did unscripted interviews with two key buyers around their upstream procurement practices. We shot footage in-store with real-people models and employees and created simple on-screen graphics to show off the stats.
In the post-broadcast world, people are looking for authenticity and transparency. If you want to put the personality of your company out there for all to see, throw away the script, buy a few more memory cards and get the organic coffee brewing for those long days in editing.
As the voting for the Prior Ski Topsheet Art Contest winds down in Whistler, I humbly present my entry in its entirety. In pen, ink and pixels, my journey from Vancouver to my art studio at Lillooet Lake and beyond – a trip I have been making for over 15 years. Here’s a little list of things to look for: A speed trap; a grow op; a garbage bear; The Hairfarmers; a rail disaster; a political disaster; an ATM; public urination; graduated licensing; the 20cm rule, and an oil spill.
If you’re in Whistler, stop by Millennium Place before October 25th and vote. There are a lot of amazing artworks on display, so don’t feel you have to vote for mine. And don’t forget to enjoy the drive.
The Prior Ski and Snowboard company has been making awesome skis and boards out of their Whistler factory in Function Junction for years now. (Check this 2011 Green Briefs blog article) They are also building a great tradition of using artists from the area for their ski designs, spicing it up by creating an annual contest and art event in the process.
This year I threw my artistic toque in the ring, crafting a design at my art studio at Lillooet Lake (about 45 minutes north of Whistler up highway 99) It was a definite challenge, designing to such a long thin format, knowing it has to fit skis and snowboards… I won’t spoil the surprise, but let’s just say it’s a very local theme.
I made the cut for the show, and on Tuesday September 24th I will be hobnobbing with 19 other chosen artists, at the Cabin Fever Party. This is a co-launch with the Prior topsheet contest and the Out of Bounds – Tales from the Backcountry Photo Exhibition, all presented by Whistler Arts.
The winning Prior design will be chosen by voting, between September 24th and October 25th – no doubt the competition will be fierce! I am very honoured just to be chosen for the show, and I can’t wait to see what the other artists did with that long, tall format.
Should be a great party! Come on out! Vote early, vote often!