People interested in a sustainable lifestyle have struggled to find environmentally friendly ways to power their homes, clean their clothes, and feed their families. All the while, they’ve been ridiculed by family, friends, and government for pursuing a ludicrous ideal. Suddenly, though, businesses realized that there is money to be made in green products. Now that earth-friendly living has become commercially trendy, manufacturers of everything from bleach to sugar-coated cereal are pushing green versions of their products.
How is the average shopper supposed to distinguish between all-natural, organic, and environmentally safe labels? How can you tell whether the marketers are playing fast and loose with words to sucker you into buying a more expensive bottle of the same old poison? Go to the gort cloud!
Author Richard Seireeni describes the gort cloud as a “vast but invisible community that has the power to make or break green brands.” The Gort Cloud is
“about ecopreneurs and their experiences, but it is also a book about this growing but largely invisible community of eco-conscious customers, partners, and other stakeholders… It’s also a book about the marketing techniques… used to target audiences and raise awareness.” The gort cloud, in short, endorses green products and exposes greenwashing.
The gort cloud is not an organized force. Rather, it is an ever-present, ever-changing community of shared information and interest. Marketers can’t buy ad space in the gort cloud; it’s word of mouth on a global scale, driven by heartfelt opinion. People, not marketing campaigns, are the nucleus of the gort cloud.
Seireeni and writing partner Scott Fields have put together a group of iconic green brands such as Seventh Generation, Tesla Motors, and Ecotrust as examples of successful marketing through the gort cloud. In-depth interviews and histories on all these companies make for compelling reading in any case, but the tales of their struggles to balance profit with social responsibility are also inspiring for others trying to accomplish the same goals on a limited budgets.
Not all of the companies featured here are 100% socially responsible, of course. Ben and Jerry’s hasn’t yet eliminated child slavery from their chocolate, and Green Key Real Estate lists homes “of any size, regardless of whether it has green features.” Even the do-gooders recognize the need to turn a profit.
In truth, it’s the stories of the companies that make The Gort Cloud such a compelling read. Dr. Bronner’s soap, for example, is a staple in green households, used for everything from shampoo to laundry detergent. Founder Emanuel Bronner, a slightly crazy free spirit long before hippies were cool, nevertheless was rightly suspicious of artificial preservatives, pesticides, and synthetic foaming agents when few others questioned the value of technological and chemical advances:
“When the late 1960s hit and a new counterculture erupted, Dr. Bronner’s eco-friendly soaps… found their audience…. If you were part of that world, you knew Dr. Bronner’s soaps.”
Emanuel Bronner’s descendants carry on the tradition of constructive capitalism and environmental responsibility. Simply by engaging in ethically upright business practices, Dr. Bronner’s brand sets itself apart. Word of mouth advertising in the Haight-Ashbury community has given way to word-of-mouth endorsement through the gort cloud community.
The story of Dr. Bronner’s soaps and a representative sample of other products, both large and small, make for an in-depth look at how the gort cloud works. Seireeni sums up with a list of ‘Ten key observations for successfully building a green brand’ for those who fail to pick it up from the context of experience.
Seireeni owns his own consulting business and boasts over thirty years of experience in marketing. His advice for marketing green products will surely be of interest to businesses, but the greatest value in Seireeni’s The Gort Cloud is for the consumer who wants to learn how to recognize the promotion techniques employed by the commercial greenies and how to counter it with the unvarnished opinions of the gort cloud.