Some fringe markets develop into not so fringe markets. Very few hit the big time and go mainstream. It's the same odds for Hollywood starlets. Chances are the fringe will stay right where it is—on the outskirts of popularity. And, for that matter, once given the chance at greatness even fewer will come back from their own "Come on Eileen"—just ask Dexy.

The fringe-to-great path is rare and, for that reason, worthy of review. Reflecting on past green products that were moving toward mainstream but failed... illustrates some of the challenges of legitimacy that innovation can face. On the other hand, monitoring those who have been notoriously self-serving and successful reveals marketing efforts to exemplify emotion, evade rationalization and drive profits.

Sony Pictures depicts an uphill battle, once lost, in "Who Killed the Electric Car," postulating that perhaps it was the oil industry. Or Republicans. Or maybe even a coalition of the five giant auto manufacturers who plotted, planned, and are responsible for the plug-in car's demise...

Despite Ed Bagley Jr.'s pleas, the electric car did in fact die. But if sales figures for Prius and other hybrids are to be believed, the second cousin to the electric car may be on the rebound. Just look at the numbers that show by March of 2007 there were already 20,526 hybrids sold. An impressive number that is greater than 2002's total annual sales.

But will the hybrid car die a death like its second cousin? Maybe—if Madison Avenue has anything to say about it.

Greenwashing may leave soap scum residue

For a long time, the green market was a fringe place, marketing compost toilets to hippies who washed with rocks (admit it, it started there). They loved the premise of the electric car and they did the math to realize the practical benefits.

But now, after a few epidemics related to health and obesity, fuel costs and addiction, mass marketing of climate change, and corporate transparency, the green fringe has moved to center-square quicker than most fringe markets. Important to note: not "quicker" in overall duration, but in haste.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

John Rooks is is president and founder of The SOAP Group (www.thesoapgroup.com). SOAP (Sustainable Organization Advocacy Partners) is a consultant for Fortune 500 companies on issues of environmental and sustainability messaging. John can be reached at jrooks@thesoapgroup.com and at 207.772.0066, ext. 105.