Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Green is the New Black

By Kenneth Hein

Organic apparel is all the rage. Here are four case studies showing how using green items can help boost a brand.

It wasn’t long ago – really, just a few years – that eco-friendly apparel seemed like one of those nice ideas whose time was far into the future. It was akin to such fascinations as plug-in cars and wind-generated power plants. However, much like these other “green” trends, the demand for such products has finally begun to take hold today. In the promotional products world, suppliers offering shirts, jackets and hats made from recycled plastic, coconut fiber, bamboo and organic cotton are quickly becoming plentiful. The trend is so front and center that Coca-Cola, one of the best-known brands in the world, has even begun selling branded T-shirts at Wal-Mart made from recycled plastic bottles. Companies that want to be portrayed as eco-friendly have quickly realized that the ad specialties they use in promotional efforts are equally reflective of their commitment to the environment as the amount of energy their manufacturing plants use or the volume of carbon emissions they release into the environment.

"Organic apparel is growing in popularity because consumers are looking for easy ways to clean up the environment,” says Lynn Syman of the Organic Trade Association. “By choosing green products of all types, they are reducing pesticide runoff, toxic exposure to farmers, mill workers and ultimately everyone. We all live downstream.”

The OTA estimates organic apparel sales will increase by 40% by 2011 compared to last year. In 2006, the last time it tracked purchases, sales were $203 million. Many distributors agree that last year, clients began asking about “green” apparel, but it wasn’t until this year that the tipping point occurred, where actual demand for the products began to pick up. “Every industry seems to be asking for it,” says Scott Alterman, co-owner of The Icebox, a promotional products distributor. “There is a lot of attention around these issues, and all of these companies are starting to get involved.”

For Karen Rankin, president of Quality Life Promotions, a marketing consultancy, living off of the land is already a part of her life. For the past seven years, she has stayed in a tent in the mountains when she makes her sales calls at West Carolina University – albeit a tent with carpeting and a full office. “I live green and sell green,” she says. “I haven’t found a ton of customers yet, but it’s going to hit pretty hard in the very near future.”

For many companies concerned about their eco-friendly image, it already has. Here are four examples of marketers who have already wholeheartedly opted to embrace promotional products that even Mother Nature would approve of.

Read Case Studies...

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