Thursday, March 12, 2009
Brown: The New Green
If you read the March edition of the magazine Ode you will find a brief interview with Nick Rosen, who complains that manufacturers, marketers, and advertisers have hijacked the word green. "They have made 'green' into a fashion item. Now everything is green."
As for a remedy to the corporate co-option of green, what does Rosen suggest, with his tongue (I assume) in his cheek? Simple. Adopt a new color, brown, which the advertising industry would never want to hijack because of its earthy connotations.
Rosen has a point. In the language of trademark law, the green brand has become both diluted and tarnished. It is no longer a helpful indicator of a product's or service's origins, ethos, or bona fides. To misquote Richard Nixon, we are all greens now. Even BP is green (do you like their new logo?) notwithstanding being up to its corporate neck in the Alberta oil sands, an extraction project that some real Greens have dubbed the biggest environmental crime in history.
Surrendering the word green to BP and its ilk and starting over with brown would be one way to deal with the problem, I suppose, but it is far from the only way. An alternative to such abject pusillanimity is for Greens to vigorously police the word green the way a business would protect its trademark, sending cease-and-desist letters to companies that claim to be green but really aren't. This idea has the one, but important, disadvantage of being utterly impractical for reasons that are too numerous to go into.
Another alternative to surrender is to fight back, not with legally baseless threats of trademark-infringement litigation, but through what Anne Elizabeth Moore calls mocketing.
I recommend the book Unmarketable, by the way. In the interests of full disclosure I must reveal that (a) I have no connection to Anne Elizabeth Moore or to the New Press, other than having read and enjoyed Unmarketable, and (b) I receive absolutely no commissions, fees, kickbacks, or even free merchandise for plugging the book.
So, on the subject of Green resistance through the medium of mocketing, I leave you with this thought. April 1st, also known as Fossil Fools Day, is just around the corner. Any suggestions?