Bright-Minded Home- March 2012

By Melissa Coleman

Q+A with John Rooks, founder and president of SOAP and author of More Than Promote: A Monkeywrencher’s Guide to Authentic Marketing


SOAP helps companies, governments, and nonprofits understand, improve, own, and communicate their impact to the world via environmental sustainability, social/cultural sciences, and business strategies. SOAP founder and president John Rooks recently spoke at TEDxDirigo about something he called “the wink” of green marketing.

Q: What is “the wink”?
A: It’s when a teenager invites a date upstairs “to listen to music.” They both know the subtext, but it’s a safer question than asking to go upstairs and make out. The green marketing wink is the same. Most brands promote how green they are through advertising. Kermit the Frog’s “It’s not easy being…” has been used on everything from Fords to pension funds, but it’s often only lip service. The product manufacturer gets to say, “We are green.” Wink. The consumer gets a guilt-free purchase and winks back, but underneath both know it’s simply giving permission to do commerce.

Q: What can businesses do to practice more authentic sustainability?
A: There are bright spots in the “collaboration is the new competition” movement where companies are collaborating with competitors to reduce environmental impact. Nike, particularly, has done this well by working with other footwear companies on “pre-competition” problem solving and open-sourcing much of its material impact data and product design tools.

SOAP advocates that companies complete an Authenticity Audit. It’s a scary concept, but one that helps align corporate culture, business goals, and sustainability to create the most effective path toward achieving business goals and sustainability at the same time.