February 19, 2013, 10:15 AM

Storytelling drives Seventh Generation’s content strategy

It’s how the retailer of eco-friendly home products romances shoppers.

Allison Enright

Editor

Lead Photo

Reid Greenberg speaking last week at IRWD 2013.

When a consumer goods manufacturer makes products that go head to head with some of the biggest brands in the market, it’s got to tell a really compelling story that’ll convince consumers to look its way. That’s the lesson offered by Seventh Generation, a manufacturer and online retailer of eco-friendly cleaning products like plant-based laundry detergent.

Reid Greenberg, head of digital strategy at Seventh Generation, last week detailed to attendees at the Internet Retailer Web Design and Usability 2013 conference in Orlando how the brand engages with consumers online. Greenberg said he may not have a budget like some of his competitors—say Procter & Gamble Inc.’s Tide detergent brand—but it focuses on creating things that captivate users. “We try to do a lot of content to drive authenticity and engage consumers,” he said.

To do that, Seventh Generation starts by keying in on what consumers want and works back from there, Greenberg said. “The point is not just to sell, but to effectively tell a story.” For example, Seventh Generation identifies itself not as a manufacturer of consumer packaged goods, but as a health and wellness company that happens to produce consumer packaged goods.

Online, Greenberg described the elements of the brand’s “digital ecosystem,” which includes presences on social and sharing sites like Tumblr, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest, Twitter and Facebook, as well as its e-mail marketing program and stores on other retail sites, such as Amazon.com and Soap.com. “We want to surround mom with a complete digital experience and make sure our content is timely for her,” he said.

One example of content Greenberg showed was a video the brand produced and posted on YouTube and on SeventhGeneration.com. The video, titled “A Brighter Way to Care for Baby” shows how parenting methods have changed over time, with clips like kids riding in cars without seatbelts and parents smoking cigarettes around children, then cuts to how laundry detergent has changed over time, suggesting that parents evolve their approach to that, too. The video has more than 115,000 views on YouTube, and Greenberg said he and his team make sure to read all the comments viewers post about the video and use them to inform their planning for future content.

“We are a strong storytelling brand, and that is what helps us make the content that resonates with consumers,” he said.

Seventh Generation, having watched how its consumers are moving to access content through mobile devices, now has mobile-optimized web sites in the works. Approximately 20% to 25% of visits to SeventhGeneration.com now come from consumers using mobile devices, Greenberg said, noting that the mobile sites will launch in about 12 weeks. The web sites use the design approach called responsive design. A responsive site adapts to the screen the visitor is using—for example allowing a retailer to show a horizontal array of three product images on the larger screen of a PC, then stacking those images vertically for the narrow display of a smartphone.

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