Category Archive for Clean and Green Spotlight

The Clean and Green Club, June 2014

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Shel Horowitz’s Clean and Green Marketing Tip, 

June 2014

Learn with Shel from the Comfort of Your Own Phone:
“Virtual Intensive” on Green Marketing and Creating a Better World
Six group calls with Shel—at a very affordable price.

If you are seriously interested in this training, I want to make sure to design something you’ll be happy with. Please take the short survey at and be part of the process. It should take you between 2 and 5 minutes
Nominate a Business-Change-the-World Project at Business for a Better World
Do you have a favorite cause around turning hunger and poverty into sufficiency, war and poverty into peace, or climate catastrophe into planetary balance? I’m starting a directory of social change projects that businesses can get involved with, at (you’ll see a link labeled Nominate, near the top of the home page.) This is your chance to be among the first to put up a project, and be more likely to attract attention. Let’s get some GREAT projects up there! No cost to list—but the submissions are moderated, so don’t bother spamming it.
This Month’s Profile:
Hawthorne Valley Farm

Here’s a community that combines top organic and Biodynamic farming practices, education, social action, and the arts: Hawthorne Valley Farm, in New York State’s Hudson Valley.

I heard Martin Ping, Hawthorne Valley’s Executive Director, at the Slow Living Summit in Brattleboro, Vermont last week, and decided to share some of his story with you.

Founded in 1972, the 900-acre farm uses Biodynamic agriculture: a vigorous standard developed by the visionary educator Rudolph Steiner, who also created the Waldorf Education movement–that goes far beyond organic into a much deeper relationship with the land.

Hawthorne raises vegetables, grains, chickens, goats, sheep, cows, and pigs. Its store sells raw milk, homemade cheeses, live lacto-fermented sauerkraut and veggies, and home-baked breads made from its own grain. It also distributes its wares through one local and three New York City-based CSA (community supported agriculture) networks, as well as through three of New York City’s farmers markets, including the massive thrice-weekly market at Union Square.

And it packages and wholesales yogurt and quark: a spreadable creme fraiche cheese.

Ping calls these packaged dairy products “our secret weapon. We make yogurt–and people in Atlanta read the container and say, ‘ooh, they’ve got a summer camp.’

Hawthorne Valley’s social action and education/farm apprenticeship programs are fully integrated into the farming operation, as are Waldorf teacher training and numerous visual and performing arts programs. The farm regularly brings in 600 children and teens a year, many of whom inner-city children with no previous exposure to nature.

“We find nine years old is the sweet spot for education. You pull out a carrot and they say, ‘whoa, food comes out of the ground!’ They’re just beginning to see the warts on their parents and teachers, you get them mucking out a stall, taking care of another sentient being–a chicken, a goat, a cow–for the first time in their lives. Kids are not standardized. They’re individual and spiritual,” just like farms.

“They get a sense of the relationships, that it doesn’t magically appear. They make all the food, all the accouterments, they understand. There are 100 pounds of milk in 10 pounds of cheese. Kids get a lesson in economics, in food miles, in the relationships of the whole food system.”

Hawthorne Valley also reaches out to prisoners, immigrant farmers, and veterans, even developing theater works for inmates to perform.

A convergence of factors led to the farm’s founding. As Ping puts it, “At that time, a bunch of farmers and Waldorf teachers were meeting. Farms were being told, get big or get out. Agriculture was being pushed out by agribusiness, the culture was getting lost. And teachers were saying kids had less and less opportunity to interact with the natural world. They mooshed the two themes together.

“They said, let’s buy a farm and decommodify the land. And children will be welcome. ‘We are founding the seed of a living organization: agricultural, artistic, educational. The goal is to become full human beings.’ I get to go to work each day at a place where the goal is to become full human beings!”

The farm’s mission is nothing less than “renewal of society and culture through education, agriculture, arts. It’s a food shed, a watershed. We think of the whole farm as a living organism. Inputs and outputs should stay on the farm.

“Farmers grow soil [through manure and compost]; soil grows plants. We’ve been ‘making good shit since 1972.’ I hear people talking about hedge funds. We plant hedges and watch them grow: bird and insect habitat.

“Our disconnection is at the root of every crisis we face. We’re not displaced, we’re DEplaced. This is what we’re doing at Hawthorne Valley: that healing, that connection, that sense of higher purpose.”

The farm also has a Center for Social Research, which explores Rudolph Steiner’s ideas on how society can be organized, and another research arm studying eco-friendly farmscapes. It supports a microlending program and a two-year Waldorf teacher training program that “looks at art in relation to social life and to money, to supporting it freely and decommodifying it.”

And this has far-reaching implications, both in and beyond Hawthorne Valley’s own bioregion: “We’re starting to see Columbia County as a farming organism, not just to our own borders. We’re growing farmers. 65 new farms in Columbia County, they did profiles, put pictures in every library. One of our farmers got those 65 new farmers and some others together for a one-day charette. We had 75 and had to turn some away. They look at practical things, like how to share equipment.

Despite his zeal, Pink is remarkably nonjudgmental. “Even the multinationals are filled with good people, and we need to help them help us. People at Johnson & Johnson [makers of hand sanitizers, among many other products] understand what we’ve lost in the rush to sanitize everything.”

Where else to Hear & Meet Shel
(beyond the Virtual Intensive)
Making Green Sexy,” SolarFest, Tinmouth, VT, USA, July 18-20:
Saturday, July 19th, 2014, 1:30 to 2:30 PM, Workshop Tent #2

Discussions in process about several other possible talks. Remember: You can earn a generous commission if you book Shel into a paid speaking engagement.

Connect with Shel on Social Media
Follow on Twitter

Facebook Profile



Green & Ethical Marketing Facebook


About Shel & This Newsletter

As a marketing consultant and copywriter… award-winning author of eight books… international speaker, blogger, syndicated columnist — Shel Horowitz shows how green and ethical businesses can actually be *more* profitable than your less-green competitors. His most recent book is category bestseller Guerrilla Marketing Goes Green: Winning Strategies to Improve Your Profits and Your Planet. Shel also helps authors/ publishers, small businesses, and organizations to market effectively, and turns unpublished writers into well-published authors.

He was inducted into the National Environmental Hall of Fame in 2011.

Shel Horowitz’s consulting firm, Green And Profitable, is the first business ever to earn Green America’s rigorous Gold Certification as a leading green company

He began publishing his monthly newsletter all the way back in 1997, making it one of the oldest marketing e-zines (it’s changed names a few times along the way).

“As always, some of the links in this newsletter earn commissions—because I believe in the products and services enough to promote them (I get asked to endorse lots of other programs I don’t share with you, because I don’t find them worthy).”
Another Recommended Book—The Business Solution to Poverty

The Business Solution to Poverty: Designing Products and Services for Three Billion New Customers by Paul Polak and Mal Warwick (Berrett-Koehler, 2013)

Several years ago, I reviewed The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid, a remarkable book about improving people’s lives at the very bottom while monetizing that improvement in the form of business profit. The Business Solution to Poverty picks up where “Fortune” left off.

Based not on academic theory but on real-world hands-on experience starting such companies in places like Bangladesh, Polak and Warwick say there’s a great deal of money to be made serving the world’s very poorest inhabitants: 2.7 billion people living on $2 per day or less. 
However, it’s not a mater of just walking in and rolling up your sleeves. Succeeding in these markets–plural, because conditions and cultures vary widely in different parts of the world, or even different parts of a single country–requires extensive research, following key design and economic principles, and DEEP understanding of the local cultures. 
Products must be items that people with almost no discretionary income will pay for and use, because these will better their lives, directly and rapidly. They must be durable…extremely cheap to manufacture…designed so a non-literate population can use AND maintain them…and systematically deliverable to places with no roads, no infrastructure, and no tradition of buying from the outside. And they have to both fit well enough into the existing culture and be disruptive enough to dramatically improve people’s lives. 
  • Treadle pumps that can be installed for $25 including the cost of drilling a well 
  • Ceramic water filters 
  • An ultra-low-cost warmer for premature babies 
  • Artificial knees that cost $75 instead of many thousands. 
The authors cite numerous failures, many at the hands of governments or NGOs who, in the authors’ view, don’t scale up enough to make a big difference because they lack the profit motive and thus have less need to make sure their projects actually WORK on the ground. Private businesses, including those run by the authors, have had their failures too–but their batting averages tend to be higher, especially if they do plan for scale. Polak and Warwick say successful businesses will talk to at least 100 customers before going forward–and this research may lead to creative marketing strategies such as theatrical presentations, in situations where traditional Global North media won’t work. If people can’t read, the newspaper will not tell them about you. If they have no electricity, then marketing on radio, TV, or online won’t work very well. Aware of the marketing challenges, Polak and Warwick list “aspirational branding” as a crucial ingredient.
The chances of success are highest, the authors say, when the ventures address basic core needs: energy, water, health care, and jobs (oddly, food is not on their list)–and when there’s accountability. They are critical of many microloan programs, for instance, because they often see the money diverted away from seeding a business (a long-term approach that lifts people out of poverty) and into basic survival–and then the money is gone and there is no business to funnel in capital. 
I agree with almost all their numerous success principles in these challenging markets. However, they make–and I question–the assertion that successful businesses must be able to scale up within the first decade to 100 million units and $10 billion in revenues per year in order to be worthwhile. While I recognize that a systematized, replicable infrastructure capable of those numbers is a good thing, I also do believe there is a place for the smaller venture that might be working in just one or two communities, yet still makes a real difference in people’s lives. And a place for the entrepreneur who still wants to make a difference but wants to stay small. 
To make this whole thing concrete, Polak is starting or consulting to four specific businesses that meet the authors’ criteria: 
  • A bicycle-delivered safe drinking water company 
  • A low-carbon biofuel made from agricultural waste that in the past had been burned without capturing the energy 
  • Solar-powered LED lanterns that are safer, cheaper, and more effective than kerosene lamps–and pay for themselves in the savings of a few months’ supply of kerosene 
  • Door-to-door health education and sales of franchised high-impact health products that protect against malaria, diarrhea, and worms

Shel Horowitz’s Clean and Green Newsletter, October 2011

News Flash: I Was Inducted Into the National Environmental Hall of Fame

Read all about it and see a picture at I hope to post a video next week, if the videographer sends me something I can use. Several dignitaries in attendance, too.

Contents of This Issue:

A Marketing Ploy that Cut Through the Clutter

UPS dropped off a surprise package from Random House recently; it looked like a box that would be used to ship a case of books.

When I opened the box, I saw a smaller, unmarked, white box, shrinkwrapped and floating on a cushion of air-filled plastic bags. I cut the shrinkwrap, opened the box, and took out a black slipcase, unadorned except for a line of headline type saying “GUESS THE YOUNGEST AGE EVER TARGETED BY A MARKETER.” Just below and to the right, these words in a starburst: “Be the first to know with this fascinating sneak-peek.”

The press kit inside the slipcase inside the box on top of the outer boxFinally, inside the slipcase, another, very deluxe box.  The front cover answered the question on the slipcase. When I opened it, the inside cover had four panels of marketing copy, contact information, *and* a video player containing three video trailers and a screen about the size of an iPhone’s. Needless to say, the graphics on the whole thing were extremely professional. The main part of the box contained two cutouts: one held an advance review copy of a new book, Brandwashed, by Martin Lindstrom, and the other held a small red plastic infant bottle whose label, extremely reminiscent of the famous Heinz catsup bottle, declared,


The two enclosures were topped with a custom plastic tray that had a cut out for the bottle and fit snugly but comfortably into the box.

I remembered that Lindstrom had personally e-mailed me two weeks earlier, asking if I’d be interested in reviewing his forthcoming book. He’d written,

Like you, I have long been a proponent of environmental responsibility and have sought ways to encourage others to take a more active role in making and keeping our communities more “green”. That is why I think you should take a careful look at the multi-million dollar world-of-mouth marketing experiment that I had funded and chronicled in Brandwashed. I wanted to study just how persuasive word-of-mouth marketing could be as pertaining to household decisions, and in the latter stages focused specifically on environmentally conscious products and services. The results were shocking!

I’d been impressed at the time that he not only sought me out but that he spoke directly to my key interest area: the intersection of marketing with the environment.

As book reviewers go, I’m pretty low on the food chain. Typically, I do one review a month, in this newsletter (whose circulation figures don’t exactly set the world on fire)—and then the reviews get posted on Amazon about a month later. To receive such an intricate package despite my low status in the book review world was a recognition that somebody, in this case a best-selling author and top consultant in my field, values my opinion enough to be sure he gets noticed—and that’s flattering.

I had a number of reactions to receiving this package, and as a marketer/environmentalist who educates other marketers and environmentalists, I’d like to share some of them with you. The insights you might gain from a look into my psyche may help you as you design your next campaign.

  1. Undeniably, it was effective. As it happened, I hadn’t yet picked out a book to review this month, and with half the month gone, I needed to start. Martin’s book didn’t even stop at the top of the pile; it went directly to my exercise bike, where I read while working out, and I started reading it that very night (see my review elsewhere in this issue).
  2. To make that impression cost quite a bit of money. I’m guessing the package cost at least $50 per copy to design, prepare, and send. Am I enough of an influencer to be worth that investment? It would be nice to think so, but I don’t know.
  3. Obviously, the campaign is reaching people who do have a great deal of influence. On October 6, less than 10 days after publication, the book not only has 41 reviews on Amazon, but the #1 and #2 slots on three subcategories for marketing books and an enviable overall rank of 283. His earlier book, Buyology, is also doing quite well at the moment, probably with a little help from Amazon’s “people who bought also bought” trick.
  4. While the marketer in me is quite impressed, the environmentalist part of my brain is appalled. This was a very resource-intensive effort involving unrecyclable mixed materials and weighing seven pounds. In tiny print on the back of the player box, it notes that you’re not supposed to throw this out in the trash and should return the box to the video player company for processing. Not a lot of reviewers will even see that note, and fewer still will go through the trouble to find a suitable box, address a label, and pay for the postage to return it. Reviewers get dozens of packages per day, and many cases, get them pre-opened by a mailroom employee. The slipcase and the two outer boxes can be recycled with my other cardboard, but the rest of it is problematic. This is especially ironic, given Lindstrom’s personal message to me.
  5. After experiencing this elaborate and expensive press kit, I am surprised by the book cover, which in my opinion is both unattractive and unimaginative. If a client came to me with this cover, I’d have advised a different concept.
  6. Targeting is key. This book was well-targeted to me, and Lindstrom’s personal message was even more targeted. Had I received a similar press kit for, let’s say, a book about Britney Spears’ hairstyle shenaningans, I would have been annoyed instead of intrigued, and the whole thing would have gone into the recycle bin without a second look.

How would you react if you received a package like this? Click on this link to tell me, or to make any other comments. Please tell me if I have permission to publish your comment publicly. I’m thinking of gathering the responses into a blog post (which is also an easy way for you to get a link from my site—just include your URL in the e-mail).


Friends Who Want to Help

The Best-Conceived JV I’ve Seen

Do you do Joint Ventures? As I hinted last month, I’m helping to orchestrate a particularly exciting one, involving celebrities, politicians, environmental education, kids, quilts and all sorts of other cool stuff that appeals to the media and will get you coverage and contacts. We’re planning ahead on this–want to get commitments this year for ramping up early next year and a launch that ties in with Earth Day next spring–but don’t wait to get involved. If you’d like to receive an invitation as soon as we’re ready, please use this link to tell me (and let me know if you think of yourself as more of a marketer, or more of an environmentalist).

Unfamiliar with Joint Ventures? Basically, we partner with you, you tell your own contacts (like the readers of your e-zine or blog), and if people make purchases from your link, you earn a commission.

30-minute No-Cost Consultation with Scott Cooney from Green Business Owner, and a Cool-Looking Sustainability Game, Too

Scott gave me one of these consultations, and I very much appreciated his fresh perspective. He’s also just developed a very spiffy-looking game on sustainability themes, set in Hawaiii. To get your consult, visit, and then click on the Consulting link on the top menu. For the game, go directly to this link.

Two Book-Publishing Conferences:

D’vorah Lansky’s Online Book Marketing Conference

Check out the amazing speaker line-up for the 3rd Annual Book Marketing Conference Online–I now almost all of them and can vouch for their good work. And this one has a series of free preview calls, too.

* Kathleen Gage: “Become an Online Bestselling Author in Today’s Crowded Author’s Market”
* Carolyn Howard-Johnson: “Your Awards: How to win them and then use them to set your book apart”
* Brian Jud: “Selling More Books, More Profitably to Non-Bookstore Buyers”
* Lynne Klippel: “Going Beyond the Book: Fast, Easy Product Creation for Authors”
* Jill Lublin: “Be the News”
* Connie Ragen Green: “How to Repurpose Your Existing Content to Become a Bestselling Author”
* Marnie Pehrson: “Using Social Media to Create a Buzz About Your Book”
* Penny Sansevieri: “Maximize and Monetize Social Media -3rd Annual Book Marketing Conference”
* Felicia J. Slattery: “How Authors Can Create a Signature Speech to Build Platform and Sell More Books”
* Dana Lynn Smith: “The Secrets to Planning a Profitable Virtual Book Tour”
* Steven E. Schmitt: “How I made millions by listening to my intuitive voice”
* Noah St. John: “Attract More Money Blueprint: Your Hidden Power for More Wealth and Happiness”
* Denise Wakeman: “The Secret to Author Blog Success: How to Dominate Your Niche with a Book Blog”

Get the details at:

Publishing Conference in Nevada Next Month

This is taken directly from a press release I received: PubWest, the leading trade association for small- and medium-sized book publishers, is pleased to announce the full agenda for the PubWest Conference 2011 in November. The programming includes notable keynotes by Len Riggio, Chairman of Barnes & Noble; Tyson Cornell of Rare Bird Lit; and Kevin Smokler, author of the forthcoming essay collection Practical Classics. Sessions include intensives on Digital Publishing and Creating EPUBS with Adobe InDesign CS5.5, Exploration and Discussion of the Chicago Manual of Style’s New 16th Edition with Alice Levine, Evaluating the Effectiveness of Social Marketing, Optimizing Digital Production Workflows, Improving Your Publishing Company’s Profitability, Product Line Branding and Permissions, “Green” Publishing, Faceoff between Traditional and New Social Media, Enhanced E-Books, Metadata and Discoverability, plus lively and interactive roundtables held by professionals in the industry.

Registration: More info:

The Living Organization

Tough times call for better ideas – Packed with powerful insights, tools, and practices, this book is a potent resource for aspiring, emerging, and seasoned business leaders alike. Norman Wolfe reframes and broadens our understanding of how organizations can create better results. Every leader, every CEO, board member and senior executive will benefit from the practical guidance this book provides. The Living Organization – check it out:

Hear & Meet Shel


  • Speaking at Bioneers-By-The-Bay, wonderful conference October 21-23 in New Bedford, MA, My talk is Sunday October 23: signing books at 12:30-1 p.m. at Bakers Books tables inside the Butterfly Exhibition Tent, then presenting Getting Buy-In: Building Stakeholder Consensus for Sustainability, at Bristol Community College, 800 Purchase St., Conference Room. Note: this is the very first time I’m giving this talk, aimed at activists, government leaders, and green business owners. Lots of good nitty-gritty stuff about how to analyze and reach your market.
  • October 28 and beyond, my interview on Good And Green Radio will be available at
  • I’ll be walking the floor in the afternoon at the Green Expo Opportunity Fair in Springfield, MA, at the MassMutual Center. Let me know ahead if you’d like to meet there.
  • November 15, 8:00 pm ET/5 pm PT, January Jones interviews me: 818-431-8506
  • November 16, 7 pm ET/4 pm PT: Interviewed on Your15Minutes Radio’s “Brand This” with Shaun Walker and Reid Stone,
  • November 17, 11 a.m. ET/8 am PT: Interviewed by Susan Rich on “Get Noticed Now.”
Remember-if you set me up an engagement, you could earn a generous commission.

Another Recommended Book: Brandwashed

Brandwashed: Tricks Companies Use to Manipulate Our Minds and Persuade Us to Buy, by Martin Lindstrom (Crown, division of Random House, 2011)

Both as a marketer and as a consumer, you want to understand the psychology of modern-day marketing (and especially the particular marketing subset called advertising). Without a clear picture of just how deeply manipulated we are, at a level not even dreamed of when Vance Packard wrote The Hidden Persuaders back in the 1950s, you will be defenseless against the continual assault on your wallet.

Martin Lindstrom, an industry insider who has helped big brands go deep into their consumers’ minds and come out the other end with fistfuls of money, turns his attention to explaining how these companies get inside your brains, and what they do once they get there.

While he certainly pays attention to the traditional buy triggers, like fear, sex, celebrity, spirituality, fear, and nostalgia—each of which gets its own chapter—the real news in this book is the evolution of companies’ knowledge about us, and how they manipulate every aspect of your “buyer experience,” through a huge range of tools, to create the desired effect: a ravenous, insatiable hunger for the company’s brand.

This well-written and well-researched book should give anyone pause. But perhaps the scariest part is how early it starts. Marketers have known for many years that buying habits and brand loyalties acquired in childhood can shape lifelong preferences. That’s why, for instance, computer companies value the elementary education market so highly.

But it starts much earlier than that. Literally, the music you hear, the smells you experience in the womb can influence your choices all through life. And peer pressure has been documented at 14 months old.

The positive side of this is that these sensual memories can help with things like stroke recovery. But the Big Brotherish part of it is disturbing. Add in such factors as the deliberate manipulation of fear to literally make us stupid and not only do you have a commercial marketer’s paradise, but also (here I’m extrapolating from Lindstrom) the easy ability to whip up patriotic fervor to justify evil actions by governments (think about the manufacture of anti-Jewish sentiment during the Holocaust, or anti-Muslim sentiment in the US following 9/11, with the media cheering on the crackdown in both cases).

Another key insight: when we encounter arousing images, we perceive ourselves as sexier. (This is what psychologists call “transference.”) No wonder so much of advertising features sultry women and hunky men. And according to his research, straight men are a major, if hidden, market that responds to those pictures of hunky men. Also, the male who is conscious of his own beauty and spends lavishly on personal care products/services is a hot new trend.

Celebrity marketing is related to this; we perceive ourselves as increasing our status and power when we read and watch those with high status and power—they are our idealized future selves. Celebs (including various royal families) feed into this and deliberately manage their personal brands very carefully.

Concerned about privacy? Basically, it no longer exists. Data mining is far more sophisticated now, and companies can create incredibly detailed profiles not just segment-by-segment, but person-by-person. They know who you are, what you wear, what you eat, where you work, where you are (if you use a cell phone), and how long you’ve spent on which web pages. Not only do we voluntarily reveal enormous amounts of information about ourselves to companies like Facebook and Google (and some companies have learned how to subvert the privacy safeguards and harvest this), but there’s plenty of data collection going on without our consent, too. And data mining companies sometimes require their customers to provide more data if they want the service.

But wait! There’s more!

  • Some products, notably in the cosmetics industry, do the opposite of what they promise, thus feeding more purchases because the wearer thinks, “I must not have put enough on.”
  • 60 percent of teens think they can buy their way to happiness with the right brands (and many of them will outright reject unbranded items)
  • While brands are seen as a path to self-esteem, knowingly buying a counterfeit lowers self-esteem
  • Nostalgia marketing has hooks back to our earliest childhood; we long for simpler times before we had grown up worries, and will welcome even products we ignored at the time
  • GPS-like devices on shopping carts allow stores to track individual movement patterns in the store—while digital price signage allows companies to actually change prices to reflect trends at different times of day
  • Receiving advice that seems to be expert shuts down our critical thinking, even if the expertise is weak or is really celebrity in disguise)—and word-of-mouth from a trusted friend or colleague *definitely* counts heavily

Lindstrom ends the book with a complex experiment he set up, giving a real family a mission to influence the buying habits of their friends.  The results are shocking; go read the book to learn what happened, and to learn many more startling tidbits than I had room to describe. (See, now I just implanted a suggestion to you. I’m not being paid in any way to recommend this book and am not using my Amazon affiliate code. But I’d love to see whether my self-perception as a trusted expert translates into sales that bear out Lindstrom’s hypothesis, despite my transparency about it —so if you buy the book on my say-so, please drop me a note: .) Please tell me if I have permission to publish your comment publicly. I’m thinking of gathering the responses into a blog post (which is also an easy way for you to get a link from my site—just include your URL in the e-mail).

February 2011: Lessons from the Ritz-Carlton, San Francisco

Shel Horowitz’s Clean and Green Newsletter, February 2011

In This Issue…
  • Marketing Tip: Lessons from the Ritz-Carlton, San Francisco
  • Clean & Green Spotlight: Pepsi: $20 MM to Community, Instead of Super Bowl Ad
  • Another Recommended Book: Bye-Bye Boring Bio
  • Hear & Meet
  • Friends Who Want to Help

A full issue this time, with a tip, a spotlight on a company doing the right thing (a company I don’t often praise, I might add), AND a book review. Enjoy!

PS–Remember that I pay commissions if you find me new corporate/organizational (non-media) markets for my columns, a full-price speaking gig, or a marketing or publishing consulting client. Write for details:

Lessons from the Ritz-Carlton, San Francisco

Ritz-Carlton has a reputation for blow-your-socks-off customer service, including the widely reported mantra that any employee is empowered to do anything to make a customer happy, as long as implementation will cost less than $200. I’ve even heard a story about a Ritz restaurant employee overhearing a mother telling her non-dairy-eating daughter that there was no soy ice cream on the menu—and going to a nearby store to purchase some.

This was the first time I got to check it out first-hand.

The gleaming white Ritz-Carlton San Francisco sits on a hilltop overlooking the confluence of Chinatown, Nob Hill, and the financial district. Looking like a 1930s-era Washington DC government administrative edifice, with its pillared entrance and huge windows in massive wooden frames, the building exterior is nicely decorated with green bas-relief. It was originally built in 1909 for the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company and was later Cogswell College (this information conveniently printed on the room key packet). Because of the hill, the lobby entrance is actually on the fourth floor, which is confusing if you don’t realize it. Bellmen in top hats handle the pull-through driveway, but I arrived on foot.

Staff was universally courteous and informative, yet not obsequious—and totally willing to engage as one human being to another. Maybe because this was relaxed and mellow San Francisco; I found them a lot less reserved than many other corporate hotel employees of my experience—more like what you’d expect to find at a single-location boutique hotel or bed-and-breakfast. (I was told by another guest that the staff here is in fact a lot friendlier than staff she’s experienced at other Ritz locations.)

The lobby is pleasant but not enchanting, with rather fewer plush chairs than many upscale hotels, and those mostly scattered around the periphery. The front desk was surprisingly small. I think every time I passed by, there were only one (usually) or two clerks on duty, but I never saw a line build up. The interior public spaces are well-decorated: curio cabinets at the ends of hallways featuring tasteful Asian pottery and the like, and the halls lined with paintings and photographs of San Francisco street scenes and landmarks.

My room was refreshingly uncorporate. The furnishings are simple but not sparse; my guess is that they’re relatively new but designed to look old and comfortable. (I did see a reference to a recent $12 million renovation.) The décor is anchored by round mirrors with sun’s-rays frames above each bed (too high to be usable as a mirror, but quite effective in anchoring the eye and setting the tone). The feeling, once again, was not of a corporate chain but a small and homey hotel. And since I personally relate much better to cozy than to cold or edgy, I was pleased. A classical radio station was playing softly as a walked in—nice touch.

In fact, “nice touch” was something I found myself thinking a lot. When I opened my room key packet, I didn’t notice it at first, but there was a business card saying

The Ritz-Carlton

Shel Horowitz

In Residence

with the hotel’s full contact information. Very classy, and something I don’t think I’ve ever experienced at any other hotel. I actually brought it back with me at the end of my trip.

At home, I answer my work phone line (if I don’t recognize the caller ID info) “How may I make your day special?” That business card made me feel special.

Another nice touch was the choice of both dark and milk chocolates on the room tray.

The next morning, my conference started, and here was the nicest touch of all: two concierges assigned to the conference, available for any type of assistance. Roy and Lauren were extremely facilitative. Unasked, Lauren brought my box of books to the exhibit table, and at the end of the conference, Roy took it away to reseal and ship back to me—so their suits got sweaty instead of mine. They rang the chimes at the end of every break to signal time to regather, and were there to handle any logistics issues not just for the organizers but also for all of us attenders. Their presence (for the most part, one of them at a time, but sometimes both were on duty) was beyond the expected staff who brought and removed food and beverages, etc., and made it easy to establish a personal connection between the conference and the hotel. Roy, in particular, also seemed quite interested in the subject of the conference (sustainable foods).

That evening, I called the front desk with a question about the iron, which used icons instead of labels for the controls. I’m a word guy, and I found the interface unintuitive. Rather than trying to explain over the phone, the desk clerk said he’d send someone up from housekeeping to show me—very cool. However, after 20 or 30 minutes when the staffer hadn’t arrived, and as I was fading out for the night, I figured it out on my own and canceled the staffer.

Housekeeping redeemed itself on my final morning, I reported a problem with the toilet and a staffer was at my door in less than three minutes. That’s even better than my experience at a Disney hotel a few years back.

Catering was quite good, with a lot of locally grown fresh vegetables and well-prepared desserts. Another nice touch was having the staff bring the dessert carts from our lunch spot in the courtyard tent (nice and sunny after a morning in the basement conference room) down to the exhibit area so we could continue to feast as the sessions restarted.

One thing that does need to be modernized, however, is the electricity. In this era of multiple devices each with its own charger, there was only one open outlet in my room, and it was nowhere near the desk. In order to type this on my laptop while plugged in, I’m sitting in an armchair and balancing the laptop on a tiny nightstand.

Outlets were also in short supply in our conference room, although there were a decent number along the back wall of the exhibit and food area just outside. Inside, there were none along the side walls, a few (in high demand) at the back and front.

And the elevators had minds of their own. Whether they chose to bring you to your floor without first going in the opposite direction and either opening and closing the doors or just hanging on the wrong floor for a moment with the doors closed seemed quite arbitrary.  At least twice a day, I was taken up when I wanted down, or vice versa, without anyone waiting to board at the opposite location.

And another thing that would be easy to rectify is the signage. One elevator bank doesn’t go to the rooms, but to a large and unnavigable staff work area. It took me fifteen minutes to undo the confusion and get back to my room. It would have been easy to put up a small sign saying, “If you wish to go to the guest rooms, please use the elevators on the opposite side of the building.”

These, however, are minor quibbles. In all, I found my first experience of a Ritz-Carlton quite charming, and am better prepared to believe the legends. It certainly rates as my most positive experience in a large corporate hotel chain.

So…what lessons can marketers and customer service people take away from this experience?

Lessons From Things the Ritz Did Right:

  • Exceed your customer’s expectations for the experience
  • Provide ongoing and consistent human points of contact (Roy and Lauren) who are not only very helpful but also genuinely interested in the customer and the agenda
  • Make customers feel special with several “nice touch” flourishes
  • Create a superbly pleasant ambience, including high quality fresh, interesting, and well-prepared food along with excellent service

Lessons From Things the Ritz Could Have Done Better

  • Never promise more than you deliver; after thrilling me by promising to send someone up to demonstrate the iron, the no-show from housekeeping (with no call explaining the delay) was a definite downer
  • Make sure the basics work. Infrastructure issues like bad signage, elevators overriding human instruction, and inadequate electrical outlets need to be addressed, because they can form the core of a customer’s experience, and undermine a lot of the good stuff if the customer chooses to focuses on them (I didn’t—but I certainly noticed).

Shel Horowitz’s latest book is Guerrilla Marketing Goes Green. He also writes the monthly columns, Green And Profitable and Green And Practical.

Pepsi: $20 MM to Community, Instead of Super Bowl Ad

It’s pretty rare that I shine the Clean and Green Spotlight on a huge corporation that’s a household name around the world. It’s a nervous-making proposition, especially since the only time I had to rescind the honor was a company in that category (BP).

However…I have learned that if I bestow the honor for a particular achievement or stance, I’m less likely to smear egg all over my face. And I like to “catch companies doing something right” and highlight them. After all, even Walmart  (a company I don’t do business with) was named, because of its amazing reaction to the Katrina flooding of 2005, and may get named again down the road because of its powerful sustainability initiatives at every level and every stakeholder interaction. Yes, I could criticize Walmart for many things—but the company earns my respect in those two areas.

This month, it’s another corporate giant: Pepsi. I am not endorsing Pepsi’s products, many of which are nutritionally dubious or worse. But I do wholeheartedly endorse the company’s decision to stay out of Super Bowl advertising this year, and instead donate the $20 million  it would have spent—an obscene amount to spend on an ad—on community fundraisng projects.

Here are a few lines from the New York Times story about the campaign:

More than $20 million in grants, ranging from $5,000 to $250,000, has been distributed to about 400 winners so far, including $25,000 for new uniforms for the Cedar Park High School band in Cedar Park, Tex., which took its campaign to win votes to Friday night football games. In Las Vegas, a new playground opened last week with a $25,000 grant won in September.

The idea is nicely interactive, involving a lot of voting mechanisms, including heavy use of social media—and spreading the wealth around many projects that could benefit from mid-range grants. It’s a cool bit of community building that also does an excellent job of brand building. And I love win-wins like that.

(My thanks to Chris MacDonald, @ethicsblogger on Twitter, for steering me to this story.)

Another Recommended Book: Bye-Bye Boring Bio by Nancy Juetten

What’s the kiss of death at a party? It’s answering the “what do you do” question the wrong way–some deadly response like “I sell life insurance.” While people will be stampeding away for anyone who answers like that, they’ll flock to someone who does the same thing, but knows how to express it creatively. To keep the same example, wouldn’t you be willing to spend a few minutes finding out about the person who responds, “I help your hard-earned money pass to your children without stopping to drop half of it at the tax offices.”

Many websites and marketing materials make the same kind of mistake. You’ve seen “about us” pages that just blah blah blah about the boring facts, or drown their unique focus in “corporatese.”

If your marketing materials suffer for that disease, Nancy Juetten has the cure. I’ve been an admirer of hers for quite some time, and have incorporated some of her thinking into the work I do with my own marketing clients.

Nancy’s the author of a wonderful book, Bye-Bye Boring Bio, that shows you how to turn on the excitement in everything from Twitter profiles to books, and then convert that excitement into monetization. Highly recommended for speakers, authors, entrepreneurs, and nonprofits–anyone, in short, who wants to convince anyone else that their product, service, or idea is exactly what the prospect needs. Your choice of e-book or spiral-bound.

Hear & Meet Shel

  • I’ve really enjoyed Ryan Eliason’s Social Entrepreneurship teleseminar series. In fact, I’ve really made a point of listening to the replays on the calls I couldn’t attend live, and have listened to far more than I do of most series.  Speakers include tree activist Julia Butterfly Hill, former Obama green jobs czar Van Jones, brain researcher/philosopher Dr. Bruce Lipton, the writer Marianne Williamson, Green America head Alisa Gravitz, Bioneers co-founder Nina Simons, and my eco-biz friends George Kao and Tad Hargrave. My session with Ryan airs tomorrow, February 16, 2011, 1 pm ET/10 am PST.
    –>If you want to gain access to the replays, visit to register for the no-cost live calls. Once you’ve signed up, you’ll get the information about how to buy the entire set of this excellent series.
  • Yes, it’s short notice. I did mention it last month, though–I’ll be a panelist (not the same thing as a speaker, in this case) at Ken McArthur’s next JV Alert, Orlando, February 18-20. I’ve heard amazing things about these conferences, including some legendary and very profitable deals and partnerships. I’m eager to experience it.  If you’d like to go too, click here for the very impressive speaker lineup and registration link
  • Social Media for Terrified Authors: How to Turn Scary Into Success: Wednesday, March 30, 2 pm ET/11 a.m. PT, with Shel Horowitz and book coach/social media maven Judy Cullins.
    * Have an impact on the three major social media networks in just minutes a day: control social media and keep it from controlling you
    * Understand how to spread your content around the Internet with just a couple of clicks: more ROI for less work
    * Turn social media connections into website traffic, book sales, and client gigs without spending any money to do it.
    *Increase your credibility as a savvy expert.
    *Define and find your book’s target audience on the big 3 social media marketing sites–and market directly to the exact people who can benefit from your book.
    * Get your website or blog pages highly ranked on Google and other search engines.
    Just $19.95, and includes several valuable bonuses. Click to get all the details (this is not an affiliate link, but I do benefit financially from your registration).
  • April 8-10 I plan to attend the National Conference on Media Reform, in Boston. I’ve attended two previous conferences and am always blown away. If you’re interested in the impact of corporate media on our culture, progressive politics, or exploring the diversified world of D-I-Y (do-it-yourself) independent media—everything from setting up a blog to running your own TV station), this is a must. And if you happen to be in the Amherst/Northampton, MA area, let’s talk about carpooling. I’m thrilled to attend one that won’t require getting on a plane!
  • Saturday, April 23rd, 2011 10 AM-4 PM, my wife D. Dina Friedman and I will exhibit again at Amherst Sustainability Festival in downtown Amherst, MA
  • Thursday, April 28, 1 pm ET/10 a.m. PT: Becky Cortino interviews me on Green Marketing for Biz Buzz: Becky is a master networker who has reached out consistently over time, and I’ll bet she does a terrific interview.
  • Once again, I’ll be attending Book Expo America, May 24-26 in New York City, and probably IBPA University May 22- 23

Friends Who Want to Help

  • Next to marriage, a business partnership is the most intense and collaborative-dependent and interdependent relationship you can have.  And like marriage over 50% of them fail. That’s a staggering statistic by any measurement.  Finding the Fork in the Road is all about business partnerships.  To buy the book, to see all the people Linda is partnering with to give you *more than 80 goodies* goodies during the launch, or to learn more, go to: (scroll down to see the gifts).
  • Dr. Mani presents ‘A DAY FOR HEARTS: CHD Awareness Day’ on February 14th – a re-launch of his ebook, “47 Hearts” at You can read the book in Kindle or PDF format for just $2.99, but he’s hoping you then choose to buy a few copies as a donation to his beloved children’s heart surgery program in India. I bet he’ll still let you in the door even though it was yesterday.

We Beat the Mountain: Clean & Green Spotlight, August 2010

Some companies are just discovering that taking sustainability measures actually increases profits, and therefore they may as well join the gang. Other companies have sustainability as a core value; it’s built into their DNA. And some, like this moth’s Spotlight business, are designed from the ground up to move us toward sustainability; it’s the reason they’re in business in the first place..

We Beat the Mountain is a company formed specifically to create markets for recycled products and thus reduce the “mountain” of trash piling up at landfills. Thus, the rather odd-sounding name actually does make sense.

Visiting the site, you don’t even feel like you’re looking at a catalog; you’re joining a movement! Consider the copy on We Beat the Mountain’s home page:

We Beat The Mountain – Join The Movement Now!

Think about the items you have bought over the last few days… Go on, take a minute… How many of those items are made of recycled materials? And how many of those items could be made of recycled materials?

We Beat The Mountain is an organization that aims to reduce the trash mountains all over the world. Products that are no longer in use, such as Read the rest of this entry »

Clean & Green Spotlight:

When I spoke at the Go Green Expo in New York City a couple of months back, one of the companies exhibiting there was a wind-powered printing company from New Haven, offering attractive pricing, eco-oriented design templates, and of course, FSC-certified and/or recycled paper. I have actually seen their wind turbine when I take the bus from New York back home to Massachusetts; it’s visible along the coast, just as my bus turns up I-91.
Read the rest of this entry »