Friday, April 25, 2008

Sustainable Brands '08 Conference in Monterey

We just got back from lunch with our friends at Sustainable Life Media. We're very excited about our involvement with their Sustainable Brands 2008 conference, to be held this June just up the Coast in beautiful Monterey. 

Eco Imprints is a proud sustainable swag consultant and corporate sponsor for the event. We'll also have a booth.

This second annual event has been getting great buzz, and speakers include more than 75 influential thinkers on the corporate environmental front, including top business leaders, entrepreneurs, academics, government representatives, researchers, designers, and experts on operations and communications. 

If you're serious about getting your company on the path to sustainability and building brand value at the same time, you don't want to miss this event. Hope to see you there!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Consumers May Be Growing Tired of 'Green' Label

Green products can mean different things to different people and it's liberally applied now in marketing. We use the term to describe a product that is designed in an environmentally sensitive manner — goods that place an emphasis on the use of sustainable and non-toxic materials, conservation of resources, and respect for human rights and the natural world.

Studies show Americans increasingly seek out and reward companies that offer environmentally and socially responsible products and services, but be careful about using the word "green" to label consumers.

According to a survey from branding firm BBMG, U.S. consumers say the word that helped galvanize the environmental movement may not cut it anymore — to describe either them or the products they're likely to buy.

BBMG's just-released Conscious Consumer Report found that only 18% of Americans self-identify as "green," while 39% prefer "socially responsible," followed by "conscious consumer" (37%) and "environmentally friendly" (34%).

Read more on this study from Sustainable Life Media's Sustainable Brands Weekly Report here.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Earth Day at FORTUNE Brainstorm GREEN

We're spending a very inspiring Earth Day 2008 at FORTUNE Brainstorm GREEN, a high level corporate sustainability conference in Pasadena.

This first-of-its-kind event features about 400 select business leaders, technologists, venture capitalists, academics, and leading thinkers and activists from every angle of the green movement — all gathering to discuss how to solve the world's most pressing environmental challenges.

We were honored to advise FORTUNE staff on ways to green the conference, and they graciously invited us to attend the event.

The agenda has been packed with lively interviews and discussions featuring leaders like Dell Computer CEO, Michael Dell (unveiling bamboo encased eco computer, photo above); Gary Hirshberg, CEO of Stonyfield Farm; acclaimed green architect, William McDonough; feisty former California Govenor, Jerry Brown; John Passacantando, head of Greenpeace USA; noted Venture Capitalist, Vinod Khosla; Frances Beinecke, President of the Natural Resources Defense Council; and the CEOs of PG&E, Duke Energy, Waste Management, Edison International, Xerox Corp., NRG Energy, Monsanto, and SAM's Club, to name just a few.

Through two days of on-stage interviews, round table discussions, and networking, we've met some extremely smart people and heard and seen some incredible sustainable product ideas, strategies and innovations. (Our highlight was test-driving a sweet European-designed all-electric, carbon-free vehicle that can hit speeds of 70 MPH. We predict this zippy little number will be a mega hit when it's launched in California next year. More on the THINK electric vehicle later).

Our take-away from Brainstorm GREEN is cautious optimism. The conference underscored that we are in a redefining moment in history. The challenges ahead are daunting and some of the environmental statistics sited at the FORTUNE event are downright scary. Yet there is incredible opportunity for progress on the environmental front, the momentum is picking up, and it's exciting to consider how change may impact the future of our planet.

When you hear the CEOs of the world's largest corporations speak emphatically about the critical importance of sustainability initiatives, you know the times are a changin'. It's not just about crafting a greener image through clever advertising and promotions. The discussion here covered how specific sustainability strategies are being integrated into the core of business models, into the soul of brands, and into the DNA of corporate cultures.

In addition, it appears that corporate America and green activists are aligning more often and working more collaboratively to solve issues like climate change. This is a more effective approach than denial and antagonism. The tides are changing and the thinking of influential corporate leadership appears to be on the right track.

Happy Earth Day!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Report Raises Concerns About Chemicals Found in Nalgene Water Bottles and Many Other Products

A few years ago, Nalgene water bottles were among the most popular promotional products in the category. These durable, lightweight, trendy bottles were affordable giveaways touted for their health and hydration benefits and for saving landfills from disposable water containers. From outdoor enthusiasts, to athletes, to students, Nalgene bottles and similar knock-offs were pitched as the perfect choice for health-conscious promotions.

A new report suggests that it may be time to replace those plastic water bottles with safer aluminum or stainless steel versions.

Yesterday, a U.S. federal health panel for the first time acknowledged concerns that a chemical found in these water bottles — as well as many types of promotional merchandise and everyday household products — may cause cancer, dangerous hormonal imbalances in children and other serious disorders.

Read more about report here.

The chemical, bisphenol-a, or BPA, makes a sturdy hard plastic and has been used in production since the 1950s. Sometimes indicated by the number 7 on products, BPA is found mostly in strong plastic goods such as non-disposable water bottles, food storage containers, baby bottles, compact discs, cell phones, computers, and many types of plastic promotional giveaways.

The draft report released yesterday by the National Toxicology Program, an office of the National Institutes of Health, signaled a turning point in the government's position on BPA. Last year another expert panel using outside scientists minimized the health risks of BPA, but those findngs were widely assailed after a congressional investigation found that a firm hired to perform scientific analysis was also working for the chemical industry.

Public health advocates have raised concerns that when used in food and drink containers in particular, the chemicals can more easily leach out into our bodies. The City of San Francisco href=>banned the use of BPA in toys and certain food and drink containers last year. Environmental health activists now argue that the new report should spur the government to ban the use of BPA nationwide, at least in baby products.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly Lead "The Green Team"

Here's a brilliant parody of the environmentalist stigma, starring Will Farrell and John C. Reilly. Dig their sweet green swag! Lowball humor and not for everybody, but we think these guys are hilarious. Especially love the edgy improv and low-end mockumentary look. "The Green Team" captures the cynicism many have about the environmental movement and organizations that wrap themselves in green for inauthentic purposes. It underscores how critical it is to keep it real. And have a little fun.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Why Saving Trees and Live Tree Promotions Make Sense

We just got turned on to an amazing site filled with information on — and images of — the worlds most spectacular trees. Check out 10 Most Magnificent Trees in the World. Then go hug a tree or read the rest of this post, which was inspired by the site.

Trees have always been a powerful symbol of nature and life. Marketers have used trees as visual metaphors for countless products, brands and campaigns.

In this era of growing green consciousness, tree planting programs, tree giveaways, and recycled paper products are becoming increasingly popular. Tree promotions are great way to bring people together, build community, and help our planet.

Despite their obvious benefits, many people take trees for granted. Some don’t understand why we encourage the use of recycled papers, or why we might recommend trees as a strategic brand-building device. Indeed, recycled paper can cost more than virgin material and its promotional benefits may be hard to measure. Tree promotions aren’t right for every program, and a 16-inch seedling will not change the world. However, in most cases tying your brand to a tree is a good thing.

At Eco Imprints, we offer hundreds of recycled paper products across multiple promotional product categories — as well as evergreen seedlings and other high quality living plant promotions for brands that literally want to go green.

Here a few reasons why trees and tree-saving programs make sense in the promotional mix:

•Trees are not synthetic throw-aways that end up in landfills. They are living things, works of art beautifully made by nature, and talk about ROI ...they can last hundreds of years. Truly the most sustainable of swag.

•Recycled paper products save trees. They show a consciousness about the environment, and promote the larger concept of reusing and limiting waste.

•Trees make the world a better place. They give us beauty and inspiration, protect us against extreme weather, provide raw materials for making things, habitat for wildlife, and some even create food for humans, birds and other living creatures.

Trees absorb the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, so they help to keep the planet cool, especially when clustered in tropical rainforests.

•Trees conserve energy. For example, strategically placed trees can provide shade that cuts energy use and demand from power plants.

•Trees clean the air. They absorb odors and pollutant gases and naturally filter particulates out of the air.

•Trees provide oxygen. In one year an acre of mature trees can provide enough oxygen for 18 people.

•Trees reduce soil erosion, save water, and help prevent water pollution. They reduce runoff, collect water, increase atmospheric moisture, and can act as a sponge that filters water and uses it to recharge groundwater supplies.

•Trees heal and provide hope. Studies have shown that patients with views of trees outside of their windows heal faster and with fewer complications. When Anne Frank and her family were hiding from the Nazis in World War II, she took great solace from an old horse-chestnut tree that could be viewed from her window and she wrote of it frequently in her diaries.

•Trees bring unity. We all depend on trees and we all benefit from them.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Don't Oversell Your Green Efforts, Ad Experts Warn

Companies can benefit greatly from promoting a green, socially responsible image - but there is a real risk of backlash if they over-hype sustainability programs. Speaking at the recent International Advertising Association's World Congress in Washington, ad execs cautioned that consumers are increasingly cynical and can spot overstated or contradictory claims a mile away, according to a report in Advertising Age.

"Consumers expect companies to give back as much as they take," according to David Jones, global CEO of Euro RSCG Worldwide. Jones cited surveys showing that 86% of consumers think companies should balance profitability with social responsibility and 80% would avoid companies that don't contribute.

According to Jones, the key is to avoid the temptation to oversell your company's sustainability efforts. General Motors, for example, recently took it on the chin when it postponed the release of its much-hyped Chevrolet Volt electric vehicle. A few years ago Chevron Oil Company was widely criticized for its "People Do" campaign, which many felt overstated its role as a champion of endangered species and a protector of the environment.

Marketers can reap rewards not just from environmental claims, but also other activities viewed as benefiting the world. But consistency is critical. For example, Unilever earned props for its Dove campaign celebrating diverse female body types, but lost support after ads for its Axe brand of men's deodorant featured scantily clad women models.

Eric Biel, managing director-corporate responsibility for Burson-Marsteller, said that to appeal to skeptical consumers "it is absolutely critical to show a trace of humility" in green- and cause-marketing efforts.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Water Powered Promotional Devices

Water-powered promotional devices are fun, practical, and a wonderful way to promote consciousness about our world's most precious resource.

We've sourced and tested a number of interesting new water-powered advertising specialty products. This green water calculator is a useful item that everyone needs, with prominent imprint area across the top. A converter extracts energy from the water molecules to provide a stead stream of power and a long shelf life. I've been using one for the last few weeks. Set it up in a few minutes with a few drops of tap water. It works great, runs clean and never needs batteries. Find our more about water-powered promotions and other cutting edge sustainable swag items at Eco Imprints.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Our Website Redesign for

In addition to sourcing and creating sustainable swag, we also dabble in branding, graphic design and digital marketing. Digital communications and promotions are great because they are immediate and save resources and energy used to produce and deliver printed content.

We recently finished revamping the website for San Francisco Community Power, a local green non-profit that works to improve the environmental, health and economic future of the Bay Area communities it serves. 

Since 2001 we've worked closely with SF Power and its executive director, Steven Moss, to strategically build its brand and promote various consumer and business programs. After seven years SF Power has accomplished a lot and won acclaim for its work in the community on the sustainability front.

Our goal was to create an down to earth site that reflects SF Power's spirit, community involvement and the debth of its programs. Check out  here and support this great San Francisco organization.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Temporary Tattoos Help Turn Aussie Wine Label Into Hit with Hipsters

When used as a thoughtless giveaway, promo merchandise can be a complete waste of money. However, when integrated into a broader strategic marketing communications plan, swag can can be extremely effective.

The Yellow Tail wine brand is a great example. This Australian label became a best-seller here in the United States within a few years of its launch. Their marketing team used good design and provocative ads to evoke an edgy youthful image. And they tied a cool, inexpensive, low-eco-impact promo to get attention and build the brand: Temporary Tattoos.

Yellow Tail placed promotional temporary tattoos in their New Yorker ads. The tattoo wasn't just a blow-up of their logo. Rather,  it was a sweetly detailed design that hipsters would actually wear . This helped position them as a cool brand in a category that many in their target demographic view as stuffy and snobby.

Temporary tattoos are being used increasingly to build or update brand images. They're a fun and affordable promotion for any message. 

We offer temporary tattoos made with safe, non-toxic, non-allergenic, inks. Temporary tattoos can have a great impact not only on sales volume but also on brand perception and recognition.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Huddler Green Home's Recycled Messenger Bag Promo

Huddler Green Home is a cool new website that aims to be among the most comprehensive sustainable product research sites online. Currently in beta, Huddler lets users connect with like-minded people who are passionate about sustainable living. You can post or read product reviews, ask questions of the community, join discussions on green trends, or contribute to green-centric wikis.

Eco Imprints is proud to be a co-sponsor of Huddler's launch contest, supplying the deluxe eco messenger bags for their "Win A Bag With Cool Green Stuff" Promotion. Huddler will give away 10 bags made of 100% recycled materials and filled with tons of cool green products. To become eligible to win, simple join the Huddler Green Home community between now and Earth Day, and write a few product reviews or wiki articles.

To check out Huddler and learn more about the promotion, check this link.