How Seventh Generation Is Going Mainstream

When it comes to advertising, Seventh Generation is no Clorox or Colgate-Palmolive, but the 21-year-old green home and personal care products maker has stepped up its marketing efforts as of late. The bulk of it started earlier this month with the launch of “Protect Planet Home,” the brand’s first national ad campaign. Spots, via Carmichael Lynch in Minneapolis, tout a chemical-free world where “the five-second rule is extended” and “where no one holds their breath while they’re cleaning.” The campaign is part of the company’s mission to raise awareness of environmentally responsible products, said Seventh Generation co-founder Jeffrey Hollender (pictured left). With the market for green cleaning products growing—and even influencing larger competitors—the company is looking to up the ante on marketing, new product innovation and brand awareness, to the point where 45 percent of U.S. households will have heard of—or tried—the brand, added CEO Chuck Maniscalco (pictured right below), who hails from PepsiCo. Hollender and Maniscalco chatted with Brandweek about Seventh Generation’s marketing aspirations, and what its new campaign—coinciding with the launch of the first EPA-approved disinfectant product—means for the category. Excerpts from that conversation are below.

Brandweek: You’ve moved beyond PR and digital efforts to launch the brand’s first national ad campaign, ‘Protect Planet Home,’ this month. Why so?
Jeffrey Hollender:
In the larger context, we are in the midst of moving from a niche player to a much more mainstream player with the same values and the same issues and commitment [to doing business] that we already have. The market for green products even during the economic downturn has continued to grow substantially, has attracted a lot of competitors, and we need to be more aggressive in letting people know that we exist, and to tell them our story, so that we can continue to grow the business.
Chuck Maniscalco: This is very much about furthering our mission. We’re telling consumers our story about protecting planet home and protecting a broader planet. Secondly . . . we plan on competing with the big consumer packaged goods companies, but not like them. We will continue to [grow] and build the business our way.

BW: How are you getting the word out about the new campaign?
CM:
We’re using all of the tools that we already use—grassroots, our dialogue with national [Seventh Generation brand advocate] members, social media, digital, and PR, which have always been the bread and butter of our consumer outreach. We’re doing all those on a higher level and layering on top of it broader reach like TV and print in order to get the word out and increase awareness. We’re eager to quickly [increase our awareness] and there’s nothing like broad reach to allow us to get there on an ongoing basis.

BW: Chuck, you were hired from PepsiCo to be Seventh Generation’s CEO, a post you’ve held since June. What’s surprised you about the company thus far and how does your background at one of the world’s largest food and beverage companies come into play?
CM:
Nothing really surprised me because of the diligence with which we went through the interview process. Jeff was very clear on what the company was all about, and the character and nature of our community. [At Seventh Generation], we call ourselves a community, not employees or associates.

What surprised me, though, was the fact that we didn’t have in place the kind of monitoring, or analytics, around the business that we really needed for a company of our size. That, frankly, was the very first thing I was able to bring to this new company, which was the discipline I’d learned [from my previous position], so we could have our finger on the pulse of our business and mission.