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The Gort Cloud: The Power to Make or Break Green Brands

July 28, 2009

Originally posted on Matter Network

Richard Seireeni’s book “The Gort Cloud: The Invisible Force Powering Today’s Most Visible Brands” caught my interest. It begins by introducing the concept that there is a largely invisible community of green customers, partners and other stakeholders who are a hidden force behind many of today’s popular green brands.

Seireeni, a specialist in brand consulting, coined the term Gort Cloud after interviewing dozens of ecopreneurs; he describes it as “the vast, but invisible community that has the power to make or break green brands.”

The book’s insider cover artwork illustrates some of the key “clusters and nodes” Seireeni found during his research, attempting to make concrete the amorphous, formless and often nebulous network of green business alliances, advocacy groups, NGOs, government agencies, bloggers, trend spotters, social networks, certifying groups, and many others who can help, or hinder, a green brand.

Published in December, 2008, the book was released before Twitter became a household word and made the force of the Gort Cloud even more powerful and important to understand. In only minutes, a trendspotter or celebrity with thousands of followers can spread the word about a new green product or out a company’s attempt at greenwashing.

But the Gort Cloud is not just relevant to green brands. It can also impact major national brands.

A case in point, Greenpeace recently launched a campaign Traitor Joes, mocking the Trader Joe’s brand for their lack of a sustainable seafood policy. In addition to the web site (http://www.traitorjoe.com/), Greenpeace also set up a humorous Twitter profile for a misbehaving pirate Traitor Joe, whose bio reads “your one stop shop for ocean destruction.” While Trader Joe’s is not included in the book, they are a textbook case study of what can happen to a company that ignores the Gort Cloud.

Case studies: highlighting winning brand development and marketing strategies
The rest of the book focuses on case studies that profile the brand development and marketing strategies of some leading green brands ranging from Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap to Seventh Generation to Ben & Jerry’s Homemade to Stonyfield Farm.

The profiles detail the companies’ challenges and how they grew their green brands, emphasizing such marketing tools as identifying a target market, creating alliances with key stakeholders, differentiating a product, connecting product to a social mission, engaging consumers and utilizing interactive web sites and blogs. They provide the reader a solid overview of the basic green marketing tools to have in your tool kit.

Newcomers to the green scene will find these profiles informative, while seasoned green professional might find them dated. And environmental advocates might question why Seireeni chose to highlight Time Inc., when the company has not committed to using recycled content in their publications yet.

Ignore it at your peril
I agree with Seireeni’s insistence that “an important arrow in the CSO’s quiver of communications tools is the Gort Cloud. This community thrives on accurate and unflinchingly honest information. CSOs can leverage the power of this communications medium by understanding the complex, interactive and viral qualities of the larger green community.”

Yet, I found myself wanting more depth and details on how to successfully navigate the Gort Cloud and tips on how to use the latest and greatest social marketing tools to reach the Gort Cloud, such as cross-sector dialogues, iPhone applications, Twitter, YouTube and Facebook. Take a peak at the Seventh Generation web site to see how they are utilizing all of these cutting-edge marketing tools.

The final take home message–the Gort Cloud is important for green brands to understand. Ignore it at your peril.

Deborah Fleischer is the founder and president of Green Impact, providing strategic environmental consulting services to mid-sized companies and NGOs who want to launch a new green initiative or cross-sector collaboration, but lack the in-house capacity to get it up and running. She brings expertise in sustainability strategy, program development, stakeholder partnerships and written communications. And you can follow her occasional tweet at GreenImpact.

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