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Long Live the Green
by Brian Dougherty

Everyone agreed from the beginning that something felt wrong about the idea of rebranding Bon Ami as a typical “green” product. Much of the brand’s strength comes from its constancy and willingness to let the “chemical revolution” pass by. It was important not to squander that authenticity in the face of the “sustainability revolution.” Also, while more people are buying green cleaners, it is also true that the category is crowded and cluttered with brands trying to out-green each other. Finally, Bon Ami is less expensive than most other green brands, so it was important not to inadvertently lump the brand in with more expensive competitors and lose that important advantage.

Celery designed 100 percent post-consumer recycled PET containers for the liquid products and spiral-wound paper canisters with 65 percent post-consumer fiber. The low-tech spiral-winding manufacturing process became the inspiration for the diagonal banner the labels.

Ultimately, the team determined that Bon Ami’s greatest brand appeal is its simplicity and timelessness. It is trustworthy because it is easy to understand. The ingredients are simple and harmless. It helps us clean the way our great grandmothers might have cleaned, before the world got so complicated and the cabinet under the kitchen sink became a toxic waste dump. The theme of the new Bon Ami brand is “simple tools for timeless tasks.” The design taps into the vernacular of the original 1880s package and the peculiarities of the way that the spiral-wound paper canister for the powder cleanser is manufactured. The package is not plastered with green leaves or messages like “earth friendly.” Instead, the emphasis is on the simple ingredients and the long heritage of the brand.

Don Peifer and Mark Walsh are well-regarded lighting designers. Before founding Lunera, they worked for top photographers such as Annie Leibovitz and big commercial clients. They were interested in the creative possibilities of led lighting, but all of the LED products designed for commercial lighting were terrible from an aesthetic point of view. Don and Mark experimented for several years with novel ways of using led technology and ultimately developed an approach that gives the effect of lush, voluminous daylight. Surprisingly, in their quest for quality of light, they hit upon a solution that is even more energy-efficient than the other products on the market.

Celery was recruited to craft the Lunera brand strategy by Gary Dillabough, a clean tech venture capitalist who signed on to help Don and Mark shake-up the commercial lighting marketplace. Practitioners in the field were already buzzing with talk of green building and sustainability, and Lunera’s brand offered an enviable set of environmental selling points: low energy use, completely free from toxic mercury, designed for disassembly, manufactured in the U.S., and more. As with the cleaning products category, though, the lighting industry is awash with products being marketed as “eco” and “green.” There are few reliable standards for measurement of product claims, so lighting experts tend to be very skeptical of the marketing claims. As a result, it is difficult for a new company to avoid being drowned out by all the noise.

More importantly, Lunera’s story extends well beyond the eco attributes: the highest quality light around, a sleek ultra-thin form factor and virtually no price premium. So despite the significant environmental advantages, the team decided to focus on “quality” as the lead message, with messages about ecology, high performance and good value feeding into and supporting the lead message. In lieu of conventional “green” branding, the team decided to build a multi-dimensional brand strategy that includes environment as a core component-but not the sole focus.

Bon Ami has generated great early buzz since the brand relaunch, and Lunera’s sales have been doubling every quarter for the past five quarters. More generally, though, these two brands represent a new phase in the development of green marketing. In many categories, it is no longer effective to craft a one-dimensional brand around a green message. There are too many competitors making similar claims (sometimes honestly, other times with dubious merit). Rather than trying to out-green the competition, these brands treat their environmental excellence as part of a broader set of values. The environmental story is not discounted but, rather, placed in the context of a higher-level brand story. According to this strategy, strong environmental performance is often treated as the essential cost of entry for a “quality” product—it is the beginning of product innovation, not the end. The result is a brand with multiple points of interest for potential customers and, as a result, a greater chance for success. CA Dougherty
Brian Dougherty is a founding partner at Celery Design Collaborative, where he focuses on building brands that have a positive impact in the world. He advises some of the world's most successful executives and entrepreneurs on values-based branding and communicating leadership through corporate responsibility. His studio, Celery, develops brand communications, eco-innovative packaging, CSR communications, Web communities and interactive exhibits from offices in Berkeley, California, and Paris, France. Clients include HP, Autodesk, Citigroup, eBay, Mattel and Motorola. Dougherty is the author of Green Graphic Design ( from Allworth Press and a frequent lecturer on ecological innovation in communications design. He wrote the Environment column.