Thomas "World is Flat" Friedman declares a new motto for the future in this morning's New York Times magazine cover story: "Green is the new red, white, and blue." But far from suggesting Americans are anywhere near measuring up to oft repeated claim of being "the greenest generation," he suggests, quite persuasively, that "we have not even begun to be serious about the costs, the effort and the scale of change that will be required to shift our country, and eventually the world, to a largely emissions-free energy infrastructure over the next 50 years." His article ("The Power of Green") proceeds to lay out a persuasive argument -- nay, a manifesto -- that going green is at the heart of America's future competitive advantage and geo-political long-term interests. The article is a highly provocative read, and I'll bet the (organic) farm that by years end, it will rank in the top ten articles cited in online conversation related to sustainability and other green themes. That's what good memes do, and in this case we have a bonafide green-meme.
The Broader Conversation: I've always been fascinated with this topic, and my original introduction into the blogosphere was precipitated by the purchase of my hybrid car, which I chronicled with both evangelism and skepticism starting in 2004 via HybridBuzz.com. But my own personal CGM is but a spec of dust in a broader universe of conversation erupting across the web related to green or environmental themes. What was once the limited domain of the crunchy-set has pushed the conversational boundaries to new audiences, new recruits, new spokespersons, and of course powerful new green memes. Even at work, the green topic is near impossible to ignore, as one of our top new initiatives at Nielsen BuzzMetrics revolves around measuring conversation related to "sustainability," which ever-reliable Wikipedia defines as "is an attempt to provide the best outcomes for the human and natural environments both now and into the indefinite future." It's hard to ignore because customers have come a knockin' on the door on the topic. Is this the next consumer attitudes tipping point? Is now the time to go organic? Is there competitive advantage in jumping ahead of the curve...or liability in waiting on the sidelines? Such are the questions of the new business era.
More Bammage - Eco Friendly Associations: Our sustainability team has been running a host of fascinating analysis on current "green" conversation levels, especially via the same Brand Association Map (BAM) technology I shared last week in the context of American Idol contender (and buzz builder) Sanjaya. In this particular case (see large circular graph), we're looking at the "DNA" of tens of thousands of online conversations surrounding the term "eco-friendly." Eco-Friendly is quickly emerging as an "equity" with which many brands see value in association. You'll note that only a few companies such as Toyota (full disclosure: a client...recall my "Green toilet" post) surround this particular grid, but you can quickly vet out a host of lifestyles and behaviors that surround the term. In the category labeled "Home Building/Construction," for example, you can assess points on the grid that reflect tangible conservation opportunities (e.g. solar panels, bamboo floors). If you look right smack at the center of the grid, you'll see the name Lesley Nagy. Turns out, she's the host of the San Francisco Bay Area's ABC show "The Green Report," and it's obvious that her own TV & online video based green meme is inseparable from the broader discussion about all things eco-friendly related. Assuming the current conversation on green and sustainability continues, brands will spend a small fortune cultivating relationships (which they'll have to earn) with the likes of Lesley Nagy who bring credentialed authority to the "eco-friendly" discussion. The growing list of "Green blogs" will also be a major force (perhaps an ally...again if brands earn their respect) to contend with, across a host of other green meme themes -- global warming, hybrid cars, alternative fuels, fair trade -- as will the every day CGM creators, who publicly chronicle their migration to new habits, new behavior, new products, and new attitudes.
Thomas Friedman just gave this important conversation a big push, but trust me, it's already well underway...and on a global scale. Let's keep listening!