Sustainable Casting Call: Seeking Celebrities

AG2You might recognize him as Vincent Chase from HBO television show, Entourage.Perhaps you saw him in the popular film, The Devil Wears Prada. More recently, you may have heard about his environmental campaign, The Lonely Whale, or his television series, Alter Eco, promoting changes one can make to live a more eco-friendly, sustainable lifestyle.Exactly three days ago, Adrian Grenier stepped out of the film world and into new territory: corporate social responsibility.Exactly three days ago, renowned movie icon Adrian Grenier was appointed by Dell, Inc. as the computer technology company's first-ever Social Good Advocate.What exactly does a "Social Good Advocate" do?It's a fair question.According to Dell, Grenier will collaborate with the company to promote healthy sustainable choices through digital storytelling. First on the docket? To encourage consumers of the importance of responsible recycling, aiding Dell in its mission of collecting 2 billion pounds of e-waste to source plastics for new Dell products.The partnership is part of Dell's long-standing commitment to sustainability.Dell's Legacy of Good plan details 21 specific environmental and corporate social responsibility targets that the company is striving to meet by 2020.  Goals include reduction of waste, energy intensity, and greenhouse gas emissions, as well as enhanced commitment to transparency and recycling."With our mutual interest in driving sustainability in business, film and music and supporting entrepreneurs, the partnership with Dell was an organic fit. I've been a part of making conspicuous consumption quite sexy. We have an opportunity to make conscious consumption just as successful." - Adrian Grenier, actor, producer, and director.The enthusiasm is mutual."We made significant progress since launching the 2020 Legacy of Good plan over a year and a half ago, and Adrian's credibility and passion in this space make him a fitting ambassador to further Dell's Sustainability efforts. We are thrilled to collaborate with Adrian, a trusted voice among conscious consumers, to extend the conversation to a broader audience." - Trisa Thompson, VP of Corporate Responsibility, Dell.IF YOU THINK SUSTAINABILITY IS JUST A FAD YOU ARE DRASTICALLY MISTAKEN.Thanks to decades of carbon emission, dismissed recycling, deforestation, and wasting of resources, climate change is here for the long haul. What does this mean? For one, start recycling. Second, a lack of corporate commitment to society and the environment could prove death knell to companies' long term profitability.TRADITIONAL MARKETING FOR THE WIN.The most beloved brands are those which empower their consumers, turning a one-way marketing channel into a conversation. Successful promotions embrace visualization and connectivity, enabling customers to feel one with the brand. In our social-media rich lives, celebrity endorsements have become an effective marketing tool for companies world-wide.Delivery of message is paramount.It should not be a surprise that the world of sustainable business has recently embraced celebrity endorsement as a competitive strategy. Using the faces and voices of easily recognizable film-stars and athletes has proven successful in creating a memorable connection with the underlying message.WHO ELSE IS GETTING THEIR SKIN IN THE GAME?The notable voices of Harrison Ford and Julia Roberts were solicited for The Nature is Speaking, a series of short films portraying just how abused the world's ecosystem has become. The tag line? "Nature doesn't need people. People need nature."Most celebrities are taking matters into their own hands, originating their own "do-good" businesses. Leonardo DiCaprio has become renowned for his efforts with Ocean Conservation. Among other admirable start-ups, Jessica Alba created The Honest Company to sell eco-friendly baby products, Willie Nelson is producing biodiesel in Hawaii, and Paul Newman founded the renowned Newman's Own food company. Newman's Own donates 100% of after-tax profits to the Newman's Own Foundation, which in turn funds various charitable and educational organizations. Dave Matthews Band, Cate Blanchett, Cameron Diaz, Brad Pitt, Neil Young, and a gamut of other stars have been seen on multiple occasions asserting the necessity for mitigation of climate change.WIN-WIN FOR CELEBRITY IMAGE?As sustainability becomes increasingly relevant for purchasing and investing decision making, it seems reasonable to conclude that many of these consumers and investors are also avid movie watchers. Therefore, celebrity endorsement is a win-win. Companies gain increased publicity, brand loyalty, and enhanced image. Celebrities gain media-attention and fame, image points, and, likely, a significant sum of cash.CONSPICUOUS CONSUMPTION VS. CONSCIOUS CONSUMPTION:Is celebrity endorsement enough to turn the tide?Of course not.A sustainable movement relying solely on celebrity endorsements runs the risk of living the same limited shelf-life as the very Hollywood A-listers it is using for promotion. An even greater risk is the "Lance Armstrong risk", such that the celebrity image later tarnishes the brand. Seven time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong had his titles stripped for "illegal doping", and is now being sued for $100 million by the U.S. Postal Service for fraud as well as by many other corporate sponsors after tarnishing brand image with immoral behavior. Celebrity endorsement does not come risk-free.ethical consumptionEthical consumption is the conscious purchase of sustainably and morally produced goods and services, often driven by a consumer's ethical desire. Ethical consumption is practiced by far too few and in-between.Ultimate transformation of consumer behavior will be the result of pragmatic alterations in decision making. True change will occur when, and only when, consumers construct purchasing decisions on a comprehensive set of product and service attributes: price, quality, efficacy, and - most importantly - social and environmental impact. The advent of social media and consumption translates into a vital need for companies to embrace a plethora of marketing tactics to communicate their message.We are not only consumers of cars and computers, but also of ideas and imagery.Awareness is vital to ignite change.