Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Green Personal Branding: What does it mean?

Green personal branding is identifying and positioning yourself in a niche of the explosive green movement. But how does a personal brand exist within a concept like green, that has so long been the realm of activism and non-profits? What kind of new issues sprout to the surface as personal branding enters Green?

As a marketing tool, branding serves to position a person as the solution to a customer's problem. But how does personal brand translate when focused on a "cause" rather than a product?

The first example of personal green branding that comes to mind is Julia "Butterfly" Hill. Hill spent nearly 2 years in an ancient redwood tree she called Luna to bring attention to destructive logging practices. In the end, her activism saved the tree and a nearly 3 mile buffer zone around it, as well as brought attention and actionable change to the issue of old growth logging.

Since her monumental "tree sit," Hill has utilized her brand to raise awareness of even more issues and taken up a battle against what her website,, calls "celebretitis," or the glorification of celebrity for its own sake.

Another person that comes to mind is Van Jones. Jones is the author of Green Collar Economy, a book about how to solve poverty and the environment. Jones defines green collar jobs as a "family-supporting, career-track job that directly contributes to preserving or enhancing environmental quality." A tall order that Jones believes can and will offer one solution to two big problems: poverty and environmental destruction. He created an non-profit called Green For All in Oakland, CA to study, develop and create policy and action at all legislative levels. He was recently appointed to President Barack Obama's administration with a focus on green collar jobs.

Jones is using his powerful personal green branding to create public policy.

Neither of these two iconic people are using their personal green branding to sell a product, but in the more traditional activism realm of the green movement. Will this continue or will personal green branding become more focused on commerce as green itself becomes more and more utilized in branding?

The big questions that remain are whether "green" will lose its meaning as it becomes part of the advertising world or if green will act as a change agent from within as the economy and society grow.

For now, the question remains a seed in the spring of the green movement.


  1. very timely post. I have been noticing that "Green" is taking over as a trend more than an actual effort to change one's way of life. Very well done.

  2. I have been contemplating your post for a few days now, Scott. Thanks for writing on this.

    If the future continues to look like the past, I think we will soon see the current generation of green branders become commonplace in the miscellany of commodified and silk-screened sound bites. A person can easily find Gandhi paraphernalia featuring his now-common " the change..." pearl. I don't know if the proliferation of things like campaign-style buttons featuring those words is what the Mahatma had in mind, but a catchy positive message is hard for a socially conscience capitalist to resist. And who knew that the words of [the] Sakyamuni would be on so many things that a person could purchase?

    But that makes sense since it seems many people purchase material things to express their ontologic statements. No doubt, there are people who give of their time or effort to the causes championed by green branders. And there are still some who tend the soil as a way of spiritual/personal expression or who take up an ascetic way of living as their translation of the sages' wisdom. But a great many are more likely to give of their money -- and are more than happy to show that they've done it. I suppose that is part of the button and bumpersticker phenomena.

    Regarding the question of whether the messages of the green branders gets lost, if those messages do not produce high-selling commodities for an industry or get snatched up by a religious movement, then they likely will fade from view. However, survival in the mainstream marketplace of ideas is not the only measure of a message's acceptance. There are those out there (and some are likely way out there, beyond the mainstream) whose lives have been aligned with peace, with the earth. Those folk have been change agents and likely will continue to be. They even might be who initially inspired the green branders' ideas.

  3. Interesting post. Now, does using green personal brand for commercial aims necessarily mean a bad thing? In some people's minds, yes it does. In mine, no. While excessive mindless consumption is not a path I encourage, smart, thoughtful, beneficial consumption, I absolutely do. And Eric in terms of "Be the change" being used all over, you and I may see it as oversaturation and misuse of the quote, others who may be new to such empowering concepts may be quite inspired, and in seeing it all over the place, feel safer in stepping out of their current comfort zone, to make positive changes in their and others lives.

    Being a sustainable business consultant and social media strategist for 3rd Whale, soaking in all things green for much of my time, I could buy in to that green and sustainability are hitting a saturation point, but then I keep reminding myself that my point of view is not the same as everybody's out there, and not to presume others have the same experience, interest, and level of enthusiasm that I do.

    It takes a range of modes of communication, people, and yes, products to reach into and connect with what matters to people in order to effect change.