Last week’s ANA Master of Marketing was an interesting gathering in Phoenix of many of the world’s top brands and marketing minds. We heard from marketing leaders at AT&T, IBM, Kimberly Clark, Kraft, Weight Watchers, EA, Visa, Facebook and others about how they are looking beyond today and getting people involved with purpose, truth, authenticity and fun.

Most all of these brands displayed a sense of optimism, a structure for growing relationships with people and a strong growth story driven by smart marketing. IBM talked of character as their north star; Weight Watchers centered on Customer Truth; Kraft about taking big leaps based on great ideas, and Kimberly Clark on finding authenticity with people.

This was all good but what got attention, what might provide a platform for innovative thinking around this truth, authenticity and character was the story of carrots and garbage. Two companies had the room buzzing. Light bulbs seemed to go on around the room. It was the light of …“why didn’t I think of that?”

In a three-day conference like this, there is a great deal of time spent in lunches, cocktails, dinner and more cocktails. This is where you hear the smack downs and shout outs. From what I saw and heard, the favorites were Bolthouse Farms “Baby Carrots, Eat ‘Em Like Junk Food” and Terracycle’s “Turning Garbage into Gold.”

Both of these addressed huge problems; garbage and obesity, that our marketing has been complicit in creating. Burying us in our own garbage and becoming so fat our health as a society is at risk, makes most other problems pale in comparison. Seeing the numbers for obesity in the US, state-by-state, year-by-year, in heat maps … someone saw a business opportunity.

Bryan Reese, CMO of Bolthouse Farms and his team first had to back out of their mindset of carrot producers as their competitors. They realized obesity was the problem and junk food was their real competition. and created a plan to change the habits of youth junk food consumption, where obesity typically begins. He had the house rocking with clever creative based on ”Baby Carrots, Eat ‘Em Like Junk Food.”They picked a fight with junk food and drove double digit growth

They used creative marketing to convince teenagers carrots are cool. Funny TV spots of carrot guns, vegetable drawers of death social games, carrot sex spoofs and much more get attention of youth. They also replace vending machines in schools with baby carrots coolly wrapped to look like junk food. “We use the vending machine to communicate funny, instead of how about we eat baby carrots?”

Which brings us to garbage. Albe Zakes – VP atTerracycle, told us how they have grown from a 2-man dorm room operation to a global phenomenon that collects and repurposes waste in 15 countries on 4 continents. Repurposing brand waste has become the real focus... repurpose and reuse being the key words.

TerraCycle has changed the debate on brand responsibility. They realized every brand has a waste issue, most all their packaging is non recyclable and brands are not stepping up to deal with it. They pitched brands that spend millions on this packaging and branding to reuse their brand packaging and avoid the pollution of landfills and incineration. It is catching on. Kraft Foods, Frito-Lay, Mars, Kimberly-Clark, L’Oreal Coca Cola and others have signed up and created partnerships.

The brands allow TerraCycle to repurpose their used packaging… their garbage… into useful, sustainable products. Capri Sun juice packs are repurposed, sewn on to products like purses, backpacks and lunch boxes and sold next to Capri Sun juice packs in Wal-Mart. People see and hear this story and feel these brands are responsible, are now a part of the solution and share that with their friends.

TerraCycle partners with schools to set up search brigades for collection of chip bags, juice packs and 50 other reusable garbage items which TerraCycle pays the school for, making it a win-win for the brands, the people, the stores and Teracycle. This approach is spreading fast across four continents as it makes sense for all parties.

In terms of garbage, making money on it and turning it into new branded products for the original brand, this is brilliant. Not only do they shame the brand into being responsible for the waste product of their production, they get them to co host the reuse of that product, find a new market for them and earn money and good will.

These two companies have addressed man’s most basic questions which we have ignored for years; what am I going to eat and what do I do with my garbage? Instead of a food which is bad for society and ultimately bad for marketers, they prove we can provide good food and do smart things with our waste.

Our ever-growing social world where people have the power to turn the spotlight means that brands are under a microscope of responsibility. Today’s “Occupy Wall Street “might become tomorrows “Occupy Your Brand”. All these brands recognized the changes that social media have brought to their world and are looking for ways to evolve in ways that will get people to support them.

IBM’s “Character”, Weight Watchers “Customer Truth”; Kraft’s “Great Ideas”, and Kimberly Clark “Authenticity" could all end up there. Let us hope this is our future and that marketing rises to make this a better place where we all win. Kudos to the ANA for a hosting a wide-ranging discussion and cheers for carrots and garbage.

Most recently as the founder of the Social Symphony Tom has, weaved social tactics in concert with CRM 2.0 social strategies with Colgate, Cadillac, Kraft, Gallo, Reebok and others and has spoken about these subjects at iMedia Brand Summit, IAB Social, MITX and OMMA Social. Tom can be reached at TomTroja@TheSocialSymphony.com.

Read all Tom’s MediaBizBloggers commentaries at the Social Symphony.

Check us out on Facebook at MediaBizBloggers.com
Follow our Twitter updates @MediaBizBlogger

The opinions and points of view expressed in this commentary are exclusively the views of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of MediaBizBloggers.com management or associated bloggers. MediaBizBloggers is an open thought leadership platform and readers may share their comments and opinions in response to all commentaries.