In collaboration with Bionic Yarn and my teenage years super hero Pharrell Williams, G-Star Raw presents Raw for the Oceans —a collection of eco-friendly streetwear made from upcycled ocean plastic. They’ve made a new line of products that is at the same level of quality, style and pricing as what people have come to expect from The Netherlands-based jeans prodigy G-Star, and infused it with the tagline ‘Wear the responsibility for the ocean’.
Why is this such a compelling example of responsible entrepreneurship and marketing, and what can brands and marketers learn from G-star’s new product range and the accompanying campaign?
I am of the firm conviction that the warp speed at which technology is developing around us right now, will soon make it possible for us to make the world a better place. And I don’t mean that in a Star Trek, Kumbaya, sitting by the virtual campfire holding hands kind of way. I mean real, meaningful change.
Sure, in the next decade or so a lot of jobs will be lost due to increasing automation: even clerical jobs for a large part will eventually be eliminated thanks to smarter software. And sure, we might soon see the dawn of truly technological warfare, wheredrones kill people, and after a few more years of international arms race; drones will be killing drones. Maybe then someone will finally say: ‘Hey, this whole war thing – what are we really doing here?’. Ok, maybe a little too much Star Trek and Kumbaya after all. But what G-Star is doing with their Raw for the Oceans product line, together with Pharell and Bionic Yarn: definitely real and definitely groundbreaking. Here’s what marketers and brands can learn from their example.
1. Technology coupled with corporate responsibility can really be used to heal the world, and there’s no need to abolish profit-seeking to do it
I used to believe that to change the world for the better, I would have to find a way to exist outside of “The System”. Or at least fight “The Man”. Revolution, or something of the kind. But I’ve been writing about responsible entrepreneurship and responsible marketing – I’m coining that phrase by the way – for some time now, and I’m starting to see things a little differently. Heineken, the world famous beer brand, and its Dance More, Drink Slow campaign are a prime example of a huge company that has used a marketing message geared to the benefit of society, foregoing their quarterly revenue as a top priority. Coca Cola and Nike are other examples of brands that have done similar things.
What G-Star is doing with its Raw for the Oceans products and campaign however, is taking the game to another level. Now, making a fabric from plastic, that feels and responds to pull and wear exactly the way that denim does, would not have been technologically possible even a few decades ago. G-star and Bionic Yarn show that technology can be applied, to produce an environmentally friendly product which, as its principal component needs waste plastic to be removed from the oceans. And that you can be environmentally responsible from marketing all the way down to product design, and still make a buck.
2. Generation Y consumers are idealistic and want to do good, but preferably in an easy way
I’ve written about Millennials and their idealism before, and the idealistic standards to which they hold consumer products and brands. But next to being idealistic, they’ve also been regularly described as very spoiled and lazy. We’re a funny people that way.
G-Star and Bionic’s new product range makes it possible for us to buy a very typical consumer product, without feeling guilty about it. We can sleep peacefully knowing that our jeans and super cool denim jackets are helping the oceans and thus the future of our planet. And we didn’t even have to change our routine at all. Just another day, shopping for new clothes on our iPad.
3. Socially/environmentally responsible marketing is great, but marketing starts with product design, and corporate responsibility starts with making it part of your company’s identity
In this video you will hear G-Star’s global Brand Director Subhankar Ray describe how the Raw for the Oceans Project came to be. He explains how G-star saw an opportunity to ‘Use fashion [by any means a very typical consumer product, not known for its typical conceptual depth or idealistic and responsible aspects] to raise awareness for an environmental problem. And then to come up with an integrated conceptual solution, which eventually brings a practical solution.’ This is the core: they’re not only making a product which is telling an environmentally responsible message; the actual product is part of the solution as well. This alone, for me is reason to classify this concept from G-Star as utterly brilliant.
But there’s more. In the interview mentioned above, Ray also speaks about G-star’s continual efforts to increase the amount of environmentally friendly fabric in their overall line of products. And he also explains how by continually trying to decrease the company’s carbon footprint, corporate responsibility is becoming part of the company’s identity. And that’s the only way that a product line like this could come to be. Ray again: ‘Often times corporate responsibility will be like a sort of extra bit of activity that a company does on the side, which makes you feel good and then you go on with what you’re doing to make your company thrive’. But in the end, true responsibility comes from the same place where consumers’ passion for responsible products come from. It comes from the core of your being. And please trust today’s extremely well informed and marketing-savvy customers to be able to know the difference.