Media Perspective: Why John Grant has helped make sense of the green debate

There are a selection of marketing books that have changed the way we talk about brands.

For instance, Adam Morgan's Eating The Big Fish was full of such useful ideas that a whole generation of marketing folk bang on about "challenger" and "lighthouse brands", even if most of them have never read it. Which is handy for the industry at large, because new terms help to extend the debate and beget new ideas.

Eating The Big Fish helped us make sense of brands in an era of marketing overabundance, and pointed to solutions that weren't all about media dominance and endless repetitive message delivery. Seth Godin's Permission Marketing did the same for digital marketing. It helped us to think about new ways in which to talk with our digitally powerful customers. The Cluetrain Manifesto's implications are even now being worked out in the flow of data and conversation that surrounds Web 2.0 brands and social networks.

But until now, we've lacked a book that will help us make sense of the sudden arrival of everything green. Because it does feel sudden, doesn't it? Although activists will hold their heads in their hands and assure us we've been ignoring the obvious for years, it seems like only yesterday when sustainability was the department where you shunted all those who you couldn't fire and who wouldn't leave. But that's not the case now.

Almost overnight, every brand needs to have a sustainability strategy and every planner needs a point of view. That's why John Grant's been so smart and percipient with his new masterwork, The Green Marketing Manifesto. Not just because it's useful, readable and clever, which it is, but because it's out now, just when we need it. It is testament to his anticipatory powers that he did all this research and thinking about a topic which, let's face it, many of us thought would just be a passing fad ... as it has been before.

I suspect that John's biggest contribution to our industry and this discussion will be the work he's done in finding straightforward ways to think about complicated stuff. He's created a simple three-by-three grid, which allows us to understand and compare different green marketing objectives and different layers of societal impact and involvement. Granted, this sounds somewhat worthy and rather complicated, but it's a very useful way to think through the mire of targets, goals, initiatives and competitive analysis the average strategist will be faced with when confronting the average green marketing plan.

And he's not just created a grid, he's also stuffed it with all sorts of useful examples which, you never know, might "inspire" you to do something similar. I'll leave you to insert your own recycling gag at this point. And also encourage you to go out and get hold of a copy of this book.

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