Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Don't sell the Carbon -- Sell the Sizzle !


Branding the Carbon Stone ?

Retail Micro-Branding & Micro-Positioning of Carbon Offsets

Branding on the Wholesale/Producer side of Carbon Micro Offsets

"Natural Artesian" Carbon Offsets ?? -- Fiji water did it !

Every Carbon-Micro-Offset a snowflake

Celebrity Endorsements for Carbon Offsets ?

-- The Tiger Woods/Al Gore personal-jet Carbon Offset ?

-- The Britney Spears Global Carbon-Overdose Rehab Center ?

News flash ! -- "Burning Man Festival" buys carbon offsets !

The Coca Cola™ Carbon-Micro-Credit cell phone ?

Don't sell the steak -- sell the sizzle ! -- is a well-known phrase to salespeople in the U.S. In short, don't sell cold uncooked meat, rather, sell a sound associated with atavistic cooking aromas that would light a fire under any Neanderthal's taste buds. Like popping grease, your chances of a sale will explode appetizingly.

In this spirit, if you are a bicycling, tree-hugging registered Democrat in the U.S., would you want to buy cold uncooked carbon offsets scammed up at a methane-capture project on a registered Republican's tax-payer-subsidized pig farm in Iowa? No, rather, wouldn't you love to buy Micro Carbon Offsets democratically produced in Barack Obama's ancestral hometown of Kogelo, Kenya? Or be able to buy Micro Carbon Offsets handcrafted anywhere in Kenya? Wouldn't that be a dandy conversation piece at the next Democratic fund-raising dinner you attend ? Or if you meet the man himself someday? Certainly!

If you're in the marketing dept. at Godiva Chocolate and you're word-smithing an eco-friendly marketing message for your core target market (single, college-educated females 30 - 55 with blazingly white teeth, no lumbar tattoos or body piercings, who live in metropolitan areas), wouldn't it make great sense to offset your corporate carbon footprint by buying Micro Carbon Offsets from the West African nations where your cocoa beans are, perhaps, unsustainably harvested? -- namely, The Ivory Coast, Ghana, Nigeria and Cameroon. Wouldn't that make Godiva look in tune with the times and socially responsible ? Certainment !

If you're in the advertising dept. at Starbucks and similarly want an eco-sensitive corporate branding message, why not go carbon neutral by buying carbon offsets from the coffee-growing regions of Colombia, Brazil and Indonesia? A perfect touchy-feely win-win branding message that boosts sales in American & Europe and saves Planet Earth -- all in one cup. Plus builds more goodwill for Starbucks in the coffee bean-producing regions where it sources raw product. Grande beango!

And if you're the Environmental Compliance Manager at Arcelor Mittal's steel plant in Bremen, Germany, should you, as an employee of an Indian-owned company, buy your 100s of thousands of tons of carbon offsets each year from just any old place? No, it would seem you should try to purchase permits or offsets produced in India, particularly offsets from the home state of the Mittal family. Wouldn't that impress the CEO and improve your chances for a promotion? Obviously.

Branding of carbon offsets -- viz., creating or sourcing "designer offsets" -- is a new field. But as you see in the examples above, branding and positioning of offsets is a boffo business opportunity during the entire process from offset production to the final sales point. Is it really possible to brand a roundly unsexy industrial commodity such as CO2 or methane?

The best parallel or validation I see for branding of Carbon Micro Offsets is some companies' success with branding of the most abundant and plain-vanilla commodity in the world -- water. For example:

(1) Evian's "natural spring" water
(2) Fiji's "natural artesian water"
(3) Coca Cola's Dasani
(4) Perrier -- or is it just the shape of the bottle that sells it?
(5) Nestle's "Pure Life" & Aquarel brands; and
(6) add your favorite H2O brand here.

Amazing. Package it, position it, market the mystique, and charge a lot for an "exclusive brand" that is often just filtered tap water. So why not do the same with carbon offsets from the Developing World?

Likewise, the evolution over the past 30 - 40 years of 100s of different "brands" of coffee beans from micro-environments or micro-growing regions all over the world is another successful example of branding a commodity. Most of us are too young to know that before the mid-1950s there were no brands of coffee in the world, and coffee was just "coffee" in a plain tin can, no matter where it came from in the world. Imagine the abject poverty of a world with no coffee brands at all? How did people survive?

So as you can see on the web site below, on the retail or micro-retail end, there are already dozens of new companies breaking bulk and positioning & branding offsets or micro offsets:

----->> http://www.carbonoffsetreview.com

Bravo. But in most cases, its not clear from where their offsets originate, and when it is stated on their sites, they don't seem to drill down to the level of the region or company or group or village or individual that originally produced the offset. Vague offset-project descriptions such as "wind farm project in Eastern Europe" or "methane capture project in India" don't inspire brand loyalty nor resonate with end-buyers.

Or, horrors ! -- were the green house gas offsets that you or your company bought really produced by a glue-vapor-reduction project at an unnamed athletic shoe factory in an unnamed Developing Country employing illegal child labor? Or, were the offsets produced by a CO2-reduction project at a Mexican cement plant near the U.S. border that is at the same time polluting the Rio Grande and the water table in Texas with heavy metals? Etc. Etc.

Ugh. How can you really know ?

So as you can see, the reasons for tracking the provenance or origin of Carbon Offsets down to the Micro or Mini level are numerous. Such tracking would allow both the seller and the buyer to gain more value from a sale or purchase of Carbon Micro Offsets. My Carbon-Micro-Credit (CMC) Registry described in detail in the post below dated November 22, 2008, would allow such fingerprinting and tracking of Carbon Micro Credits or Offsets:


Once implemented, the Registry would also facilitate so-called "perfect price discrimination" -- allowing a group of Poor Individuals selling Carbon Micro Offsets to identify the One customer worldwide that valued their offsets the most. Or nearly so. Of course, some economic "frictions" will always obtain and prevent absolute revenue maximization by sellers. But the Carbon-Micro-Credit (CMC) Registry could be the database for a global eBay-like auction marketplace that allowed Poor Individuals to eliminate multiple middlemen in the marketing & sale of their individual carbon offsets, or the sale of the collective carbon-offset project of their village or town.

Continuing the discussion on the offset production side on the ground in Africa and Asia, there are many opportunities for major corporations to sponsor carbon-offset origination projects and while so doing extend/expand awareness of, and loyalty to, their brand down to the level of the Individual in the Developing World.

The hypothetical Coca Cola™ Carbon-Micro-Credit cell phone captioned above is one example. Why is there no Coca Cola™ branded cell phone? And why not in the hands of the Upwardly Mobile Poor in Africa so they see the brand name every day of their lives when they claim their daily carbon manna? What strong "fixation", as a zoologist would say, and brand loyalty that would cause! So far the widespread marketing concept of affinity cards or group cards in the credit card world has not yet spread to cell phones, but why not ? It's just a different plastic shell and logo on the outside of the same cell-phone electronics.

Any multinational corporation focused on sales of inexpensive consumer goods like Coca Cola would be wise to embrace sponsorship of Carbon Micro Offset-origination projects in the Developing World. Such companies would include L'Oreal, Nestle, Lever Brothers, Kao, Pepsi, Yum Brands, Procter & Gamble, Lion, Shiseido, Sony, and many others. The Carbon-Micro-Credit (CMC) Registry will allow companies to easily identify micro-offset projects that meet specific geographic, demographic, philanthropic, product marketing and/or corporate or product brand-building requirements. Companies will be able to micro-target product promotion efforts and build goodwill with the exact target markets most likely to become long-term customers as their earnings potential grows over time, courtesy, initially, of the cell-phone-based Carbon Micro Credit (CMC).

Branding of Carbon Micro Offsets is the wave of the Near Future. So don't be surprised if someday soon you find not just any ole plain-cocoa carbon offsets, but, rather, delicious aromatic Colombian Carbon Micro Offsets -- individually hand-picked by Juan Valdez -- in a coffee cup near you.

Think globally & act locally yours,

David A. Palella
Chief Carbon FireBrand

San Diego, CA
tel: 858-793-0741
email: dpalella@san.rr.com