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Green Fatigue and Pop Culture

Is the environmental movement branding itself too narrowly with its monochromatic messaging? John Rooks is the President/Founder of The SOAP Group (Sustainable Organization Advocacy Partners) and he's talking about "green fatigue" in is article More on the Color of Sustainability from the Environmental Leader.

In this blog, we've talked about developing a language for the sustainability movement as being essential for moving it forward. I also suggested looking at the marketing of other causes to help get the message across. John Rooks is in the social marketing field, yet his idea seems to be: brand well, but don't mistake the envelope for the message.

The beneficial business movement does need to shake free of Green – yes.  Shaking into a new color is one possible strategy. But dropping the concept of color altogether and making sustainability ubiquitous – therefore invisible – might be even cooler...

We could instead look to Ecopedegogy for guidance. Ecopedegogy serves the purpose to stimulate critical and negative discourse about sustainability. But its aim is to realize the planetary peace, happiness, justice, and beauty that would be manifested by sustainable social and cultural relations between the peoples of the Earth.  Ecopedegogy extends beyond the limiting eco prefix, and embraces all elements of sustainability and sacrifices none.

It's refreshing to hear someone mention openly the paradox of all marketers, not just those "selling" blue jeans or soda pop, but a value like environmentalism: "I contend that the sustainable business movement will not be solved through brand strategy," Rook writes. Maybe "greening" lends itself so easily into greenwashing, and selling the accoutrements of a sustainable lifestyle (reusable bags and water bottles, organic foods) often becomes and end in itself because marketing alone can't really galvanize a movement. It's this thought-provoking question from Rook that i think we need to consider:

But what if it wasn’t a color at all? What if it wasn’t a choice between Blue or Green?  What if it was a movement based on a concept?

If you consider a concept to be some kernel of an idea surrounded by good language and evocative images, how do you go about keeping the concept central to whatever discourse you use to communicate it?  Pop culture, is all about taking the harbinger of a message, its branding or logo or icon, out of its original context and repurposing it. The Kool Aid Man ends up on a t-shirt. The Simpsons turn a recognizably manic kids' cereal box into Krusty-O's.  A brand quickly attains its own life, mutating into surprising new areas of the culture, a socerer's apprentice that is a potent self-propelled force towards its own repurposing. The question is, how do we keep the urgent central message of the green movment--see, there I go again--at one step ahead of its branding machine?

Tags: Brand, Culture, Environemnt, Green, Marketing, Pop, Popular

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