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Two years ago, the green cleaning and personal care products company Seventh Generation fired its founder. A year later, it fired his replacement. The current CEO thus appears determined to avoid that fate by returning to a marketing approach that embraces the meaning of the brand itself.

The company’s name refers to an Iroquois law that mandated every decision should consider its potential impact on the next seven generations of people. To reinforce this central message and a core brand value, Seventh Generation has launched a new campaign, “Inciteful Insights,” that encompasses a packaging redesign. The related communications refer mainly to the proportion of biologically based, as opposed to petroleum-based, ingredients in its products.

This renewed focus comes after significant upheaval due to the frequent changes in the top management team, which led to experiments with various marketing and operational strategies. After founder Jeffrey Hollender was fired, a former Gatorade executive took over as the CEO but lasted just a little over a year. Hollender had remained on the board but at that point was forced out of even that position. The board hired a new CEO, John Replogle, who had worked for Burt’s Bees and who has undertaken a marketing shift, away from print and television advertising and toward a greater focus on digital and social media outlets.

This move appears to be working; sales recently increased by 15 percent. Part of the bump might be due to Seventh Generation’s movie-tied promotion with Dr. Seuss’s environmental fable, The Lorax. Despite some backlash from consumers who believed the company was “selling out” by sponsoring the movie, the well-aligned promotion seemed to appeal to most buyers, as evidenced by the sales increase.

The new challenge for Seventh Generation is to prove to consumers that its products work well, not just that they are good for the environment. In an effort to expand, the brand is introducing 60 new items, including super-concentrated laundry detergent packaged in recycled cardboard and new baby care products.

Discussion Question:

  1. How should Seventh Generation go about expanding its product lines?

source: Jack Neff, “Seventh Generation Expands Lineup,” Advertising Age, May 7, 2012.