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"Organic" is the hot label now. But just how much does a company have to change about their products to be allowed to use that distinction? Is it really all boiling down to marketing pitches with no substance...?

Mark Morford's column earlier this month for the San Francisco Chronicle's Notes & Errata just called out some of the big brands on their new marketing push: "organic."
We've likely all seen the latest Kellogg's breakfast cereal ads on television by now. They aren't the first to jump on the organic bandwagon, by any means, but they may be one of the first traditional brands to announce it so loudly (and the effort is very clearly focusing on women).
As Mark points out - there is no question that the general organic movement has been good for society on a lot of fronts, but it's the morphing of the definition of the word and how it is being added to a lot of labels very quickly that is of concern.
Now, I'm all for many a brand's raised awareness of the environmental/social footprint of their products - after all, I live in Vermont (insert joke about Birkenstocks here). On the other hand - I am also a person who consults on marketing, so I can understand the recent run on "green" labels by everyone from Walmart to Cheerio's. It is wise to be on top of this because along women's purchasing paths: it all matters - and green-ness can, for some segments of the women's market, really matter a lot.
There is plenty of discussion of the labeling standards for/definition of "organic" - as Mark writes in his column, but I'll leave that to the experts. (And/or, if this is of interest to you, you might want to check out what my friends at the New Seasons stores in Portland, Oregon, are doing with their Home Grown program.)
But, it's the idea of BE-ing what you are as a brand, rather than beating the drum about it, that really caught my attention. It's akin to superfically marketing to women, but slapping a "for women" sticker on your existing product, without making any real women-specific changes at all.
"Organic" is the hot label now, so... just how much does a company have to change about their products to be allowed to use that distinction? Is it really, really, really all boiling down to marketing pitches with no substance?
Or, are brands digging deep and re-examining their processes, vendors and so on, to really make a change that they can be proud of?
If that were the case, would consumers need to see a "we're so green" sticker or would they be able to tell by looking at the ingredient list or just observing which causes you sponsor or what mission your founders profess? Can you slowly work toward being a more green or organically-oriented brand, and by so doing get the attention of more of your most important customers? I think you'd be surprised.
But, I'd also love to hear your thoughts.

Continue reading ""Green" Is More Than Skin-Deep" ... Read the full article

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image of Andrea Learned
Andrea Learned is a noted author, blogger, and expert on gender-based consumer behavior. Her current focus is on sustainability from both the consumer and the organizational perspectives. Andrea contributes to the Huffington Post and provides sustainability-focused commentary for Vermont Public Radio.

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