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Non-guinea pigs unite as ecostore ramps up Facebook opt-out campaign

Not content with merely encouraging buyers to opt out of using nasty chemicals, ecostore is trying to get consumers’ entire Facebook networks to do the same.

Ecostore’s latest campaign has been pushing the ‘I’m not a guinea pig line’ to encourage consumers to opt out of using nasty chemicals often found in other baby, beauty, body and household cleaning products. Now, in what it claims is a marketing first, it’s taking that idea a step further by trying to get consumers’ entire Facebook networks to do the same.

It’s difficult to change people’s behaviour and get them to take a stand (or in this case, get consumers to make a virtual billboard with a photo of themselves declaring “I’m not a guinea pig”). But incentives certainly help grease the wheels of behaviourial change, so the first person to get all of their online friends to opt out wins a year’s supply of ecostore body care products for themselves and every one of their online friends.

“The online community is a vital link in people’s social network, so Facebook was a natural choice,” says marketing director Melissa Fletcher. “It focuses on the communal benefit of working together; it’s the old ‘what’s in it for you is in it for me’ approach.”

In a similar fashion to its recent Little Treasures campaign, which put a very important human face on the debate around the use of chemicals, ecostore and its advertising partners Naked Communications, Special Group and Salt Interactive have once again ramped up the emotion and personalisation with this campaign. And it’s yet more evidence of a shift in focus after ecostore’s big brand and design overhaul recently, with less emphasis being placed on the environment and more emphasis being placed on health, something consumers—and particularly mothers—are more able to relate to.

Matt O’Sullivan, director of Naked Communications says the human side of the ecostore brand is one of its real strengths. And, from a strategic perspective, that’s been the major focus.

“Tapping into the social network of young mothers is a crucial part of this and for this reason we have looked to develop communications that consumers can participate in and feel proud about putting their own name to.”

Special Group’s Michael Redwood says more and more people are becoming concerned with what they are eating but what they’re putting on their skin is becoming similarly important.

“From moisturisers to washing powders, there are some nasty chemicals being used. The simple fact is that your skin is an organ and can absorb chemicals into your bloodstream. We believe what goes on your body is just as important as what goes in it.”

The website www.optoutnow.co.nz provides information on what chemicals to keep an eye out for, alongside other useful tips and advice and Fletcher says the response to the site has been incredible.

“Ultimately people don’t know what they don’t know. Making people aware, and then providing them with simple information, helps them make more informed decisions, which is the ultimate aim of the campaign.

It often used to be assumed that anything ‘eco-friendly’ was probably made by hippies and didn’t really work. That perception seems to be changing as consumers—and investors—figure out there’s actually plenty of smart science behind companies like ecostore.

There’s also a defined vision for the brand and, as Colmar Brunton’s Jacqueline Ireland says in the recent edition of NZ Marketing, the power of purpose—be it Google’s quest to liberate information, IBM trying to create a smarter planet or Apple tapping into self-expression—is proven to be the secret to great brand building.

It’s taken 18 years to get to this point and most of the cash has been re-invested back into the business, but the vision remains very well-defined and ecostore products are now being stocked in supermarkets, health stores and chemists across Asia, the United States and Australia. It’s up against some massive corporates that use an array of well-established—some might say slightly duplicitous—marketing tricks to prosper, but ecostore is playing the role of challenger brand more effectively by implying its competitors are inherently bad, playing on consumer emotions and leveraging the power of its social media networks.