Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Are we using the wrong strategy?

I've been doing a lot of thinking lately, inspired by several recent readings, TED videos and mostly the SunChips bag recall. Are we working too hard to employ the wrong strategy? 

Here's my thinking...

I asked a business associate what he thought was the biggest issue when it came to the success of sustainability - business or consumer? His reply was, "...there isn't enough money in the world to solve the consumer issue...I think the hardest one to crack is the business issue - simply because of the internal corporate conflicts of interest and sloppy business practices - i.e., NO collaborative arrangements to coral all the experts (internal and external) who can bring the right ingredients into the mix and produce a successful outcome."

What if there was all the money in the world to educate consumers?

I feel like the problem is that we’re relying on corporations to do the right thing, and then relying on them to educate people on what their doing. That uses precious time and resources. Now, you and I, and many others, are keen to that idea, big business should have been doing the right thing from the very beginning. But alas, they haven’t been and they have to shift their behavior and that requires extensive resources, which many big businesses are having a hard time diving into head first. Essentially the planet’s health, and our health, is reliant on a push strategy, which as we’re witnessing with the SunChips example can be very very dangerous and back fire.

What if instead we created a pull strategy? What if we were able to wage an actual global campaign (well US first) that was all about educating consumers, creating a pull strategy – arming and empowering mainstream consumers to demand better for themselves and for the planet? And what if that campaign was about simplicity, empowerment and transformative change?

Do you think that would/could crack the business issue mentioned above? 

I have a thought, but I would love to hear anyone and everyone's thoughts and feelings on this if you've got the time. Hit me back and I'll collect, digest and then share an idea!

Here's to living your best possible life!

Melissa Mizer - Chief Brand Cultivator 

Friday, October 8, 2010

Making Things Happen: Complaining or starting a movement?

Hello again! Yes, it's been quite a while. We've been busy launching our new recruiting service GEM ( And now that it's off the ground we are back to putting all our attention into Sprout, and making things happen in the world of social responsibility and well being.

And while we're on the topic, there's quit a lot going on. We've just learned about Alex Bogusky's newest Fearless venture, "The Least You Can Do", from The Denver Egotist

This new venture is in cooperation with Justin's Peanut Butter. Here's what their up to (a few excerpts from their website):

"Justin's is a company committed to healthy eating, active lifestyles and of course - delicious nut butter that comes in handy portable packets. Their packaging is extremely convenient but unfortunately the plastic is not very "green." Still passionate about the environment and not wanting to leave a footprint, Justin's is on a crusade to get the entire packaged food industry to hop on the compostable train, increase awareness, demand and make the world a better place one deliciously squeezable packet at a time."

The site sets out the mission for visitors to Like their Facebook page and become "Inactivists":

"Your Mission:

Join us in the fight to get more companies using greener, compostable packaging instead of oil-based plastic in their packaging. Get started by clicking "Like" over there on your left. Wasn't that simple? You're well on your way to becoming an Inactivist. Click below to see the rest of the activities we have for you. You'll be doing next to nothing in no time."
I love Justin for having a mission and attacking it head on, and I would absolutely love to help in any way I can, which is why I did all the activities they suggest: Like Facebook page, signed the petition, and sent a letter to ConAgra. But I have to admit that I'm really struggling with the manner in which the desired outcome is being messaged/packaged. 
While I admire Fearless, Justin's and all those that contributed their work to this cause, specifically because I'm a big believer movements and their potential affect on the evolution of the American Dream, I'm truly not so sure about this. On the surface I think it's great, but when you dig into the possible repercussions is where I start to scratch my head.

Obviously the power of complaint, given the recent Frito Lay/SunChips loud bag action, can move companies to change.

But is this how we want to change the world? By complaining? By "doing nothing" in hopes of gaining a lot? Maybe I'm an idealist but what happened to the idea of taking real action, of actually doing "something" to affect change? For some reason this just feels like we're empowering a bunch of lazy complainers who think that all they should have to do is write an email in order to affect change. I think it's a great first step, but can this really truly change an industry?

We always say that the message is, or is wrapped in, the medium, and while perhaps this is the best way to address this specific issue, could this medium/mechanism be sending the wrong message? It's kind of like Whole Foods being the ambassador for the planet but wrapping their single use utensils in plastic. Is this the message we really want to send?

And if the industry changes will this be because it was already moving in that direction (eg., Pantene sugar cane packaging) or because we asked people to "Like" a page, sign a petition and write to the mega-oil using, trash creating entities like Heinz and ConAgra?

I'm really excited to see the results and will do anything and everything in the meantime to help the cause, and we encourage you to do the same. We'll be sure to keep tabs on it and let you know their progress.

Melissa Mizer
Chief Brand Cultivator

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

I is for Iron (pumping iron that is)

As we get older it seems there’s so much to think about, but one of the best things you can do is pump some good ole fashioned iron. Recent studies have shown that after age 40, most people lose about 1 percent of their muscle mass each year! 

So what’s the big deal about losing muscle mass, and why should you care? Actually… there are many reasons why.

Having less muscle also alters metabolism, which could lead to obesity or other changes that could alter a body’s ability to use insulin effectively, thus increasing the risk of diabetes.  Muscle loss can also lead to weak bones, again increasing risk of breaks and injury.

The good news is… studies show that building muscle (through pumping iron) can stop, and potentially even reverse, all of these effects, regardless of age or what shape you’re in.

Studies have also found that pumping iron can help create a feeling of well-being, reducing risk of depression, and it’s been said that it may even help improve overall mental/cognitive health, which is why many doctors are starting to recommend weight training to patients with Alzheimer’s.

Weight lifting, according to studies, is one of the most important activities that adults can pursue to stay healthy. Today adding a little iron to your routine is simpler than ever, and you don’t have to go to a traditional gym. Men’s Health offers a fantastic Muscle Plan on their website and we’ve been touting the benefits and results of bar classes on the Sprout Strategy Facebook page for months (a Sprout ‘must try’). 

Marketing Idea: One of the things we’ve been learning from consumers, especially those just entering the natural foods market, is they need our help – the idea of “being healthy” is not only foreign to them, but very overwhelming and intimidating, making them ‘hungry’ for solutions.

The Sprout’s know that healthy eating and nutrition is THE key to staying healthy, but it seems this has become an extremely myopic and undifferentiated idea for Natural Food companies. There couldn’t be a more perfect positioning for these brands than the idea of “Total Body”. We would love to see more step outside their comfort zone of nutrition and encouraging total-body health, and it can be as simple as providing new and interesting exercises on/in packaging, a dedicated page on their website or even partnering with a fitness organization, personal trainers or special events.

Here’s to pumping iron and in return, living your best possible life!

Friday, May 14, 2010

H is for Health...and Happiness!

Recently I’ve been struck by just how closely our happiness is linked to our health, it seems they really do go hand in hand. Everywhere I turn it seems there’s something saying – health and happiness!

Take for instance my new favorite book, The  New York Times best seller, Born to Run, by journalist Christopher McDougall. His travels and adventures covering the ultra running scene across America give us a peak into an amazing culture that thrives on what many see as torture and craziness (50 mile or longer races through various terrain and conditions). He explains the level of peace and happiness these runners experience, even at mile 60 of the Leadville 100 they’re beaming with smiles - no hurt, no cares, just genuine happiness.

This overflow of happiness McDougall believes is a direct result of the fact that they run, they run far, and they run fast. And they’re healthy!

And then there’s the Biggest Loser on NBC. (I admit I’m addicted and never miss an episode.) Every single one of those in the final six repeatedly talk about how happy they’ve become over the course of their Biggest Loser journey. Why wouldn’t you be happy when you’ve lost the weight of an entire person and look better than you’ve looked in years?

But it’s interesting, that’s not what they point to when they mention their happiness. Rather they talk about how getting healthier is what has made the difference. They’re stronger emotionally. They have more self-confidence. They’re not riddled with disease and the looming chance of heart attack and stroke. So, it’s not because they can now wear a size 10, but because they feel healthier – all over!

And it really got me thinking. On a daily basis I either have a conversation with a client, a friend or family member or I overhear a couple of women talking at a restaurant about finding happiness, achieving happiness, trying to figure out what they can do to make themselves happy.

And then I look, I really look at them. And I realize these are the people who are also some of the most unhealthy. They’re plates are overflowing with meat and cheese, they’re stressed out about family and work, they’re overweight (and sometimes obese) and they have bags the size of some ladies purses hanging below they’re eyes because they’re so tired. And I want to scream, “GET HEALTHY!”

Getting happy means getting healthy!

I know, I’m living proof of it. The last couple of years have been very hard – creating Sprout, growing Sprout, sprouting Sprout into another city, unearthing our new recruiting company gem™, not to mention the personal side of things. Without even realizing it, I woke up one day and realized I’d gained 20lbs and I was honestly the most unhappy I’d been in a very very long time.

Since that day I’ve made a commitment to several things, the most important eating a clean diet (Vegan organic diet – wheat, dairy and sugar only for special occasions), and scheduling, and committing, to some pretty tough workouts – oh, and tennis lessons! And I can honestly say I haven’t been this happy since I moved to Chicago the first time.

Over the last two months I’ve come to realize the hardest part is you don’t realize how miserable you truly are when you’re drowning in the stress and burdens of everyday life until something hits you and you start to climb out, get healthy, get happy and look back.

This is not merely a lesson for us as people; it’s a lesson for us as brand marketers, especially those committed to the health and wellness mission. So often motivation is about scare tactics, but what if motivation was about happiness tactics? What if there was a way for us to help people realize their unhappiness now, and what if our brands were the ones that could help them dig out? What would that do for your brand, and your brand loyalty? Just something to think about.

Here’s to living your best possible life!

Melissa Mizer – Sprout Strategy Chief Brand Cultivator

Monday, April 26, 2010

G is for Groovy Green Gifts

With Earth Day just behind us and being green still top of mind, here are a handful of groovy “green” gift ideas, some of which could even make for that perfect Mother’s Day gift – with mom’s day just around the corner.

If you’re interested in sending mom flowers, or perhaps just planting an eco-certified plant or tree in honor of Arbor Day this Friday, check out for a variety of sustainably grown floral options.  As a bonus, if you check out the site this week (before the 30th), you still have time to enter to win a $125 gift certificate.

If you’d prefer to “toast” mom this Mother’s Day, perhaps you’d rather send her a bottle of the award winning Chateau Bousquette Cuvee Prestige from  And while you’re there, you may just want to sign up for the wine of the month club, where you can indulge in three bottles of organic vino every month.

If mom’s been needing a little extra “flair” in her life, check out the Chica Rosa – Silver clutch at, hand crocheted with 200 recycled aluminum pop-tops.  It’s sure to be a hit with mom and you may even want to buy a matching one for yourself.

Or, for a more casual handbag option, check out the Planet Green Graphic, Organic Cotton or Animal Planet series handbags on  These designer reusable bags will help mom spread the eco-friendly message with style.

And finally, If R&R is where it’s at with mom, why not make her day with the Organic Peaceful Spa Gift Set from or allow her to wrap herself up in a plush Organic Cotton Thick and Thirsty towel from

We could go on and on with the endless variety of green gift options now available, but these are just a few of our faves definitely worth checking out.  We’d love to hear your favorites too, but until then…

Happy Mother's Day and here’s to living your best possible life!

Monday, April 19, 2010

F is for (Shocking) Food Facts

The Sprouts are constantly asking ourselves questions like…

America’s obese, Africa is malnourished, why?
If I eat fish, am I contributing to extinction?
Can vitamins really make a difference?

Well, you know how the Sprout brain works.

And then come along movies like Food, Inc., and TV shows like Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, packed with the reality of the who, what, where, when and how of our food, and things start to become a little more clear for us.

Adding to our clarity is a new book called The Little Book of Shocking Food Facts, (which we were lucky enough to get a first hand peak of the layouts before it was finalized for production). The book’s crucial facts, figures and tidbits about the food we eat and the process it takes to make it and get it to our mouths (all of which are gleamed from the world’s most admired and trustworthy authorities on food and food production), at times even had us uttering a “WHOA!” under our breath.

The core idea of ‘shock value’ resonates not only in the startling facts, but also in the graphic design and photography, making each page turn an adventure in facial expressions to be sure.

And all of this can’t help but make us wonder…it’s interesting that so many are turning to shock in order to get our attention when it comes to eating and producing food in a healthy and humane manner. What’s more shocking is that despite all these efforts is thousands of McDonald’s Big Macs are still be scarfed down by some of the largest and most unhealthy people in American and at the same time those in India, Bangledesh and Ethiopia (just to name a few) continue to fight for the chance to eat a decent meal and drink a clean cup of water.

Our question: Can shock work to change people’s ingrained behaviors and make us, and the world, healthy?

What do you think? Is shock the answer or is there a better approach?

While you, and the Sprouts, ponder that interesting question, we’d like to thank Craig Holden Feinberg, a friend of Sprout, for his beautiful graphic art design of the book and for an awe-inspiring, and quick, lesson on global food politics, fast food culture and healthy nutrition. The book is available for pre-order at Amazon and will ship in November. For those of you who can’t wait, we’ll try to get our hands on some pre-released copies to give away to clients, or maybe we’ll do a Sprout Strategy Facebook trivia contest in the coming weeks and give you the chance to win a copy.

Here’s to living your best possible life!

Friday, April 16, 2010

E is for Earth Day

Each and everyday the Sprouts feel a bit overwhelmed by the task of saving our planet from ourselves. We’re constantly inundated by pictures of devastated landscapes and the possibility of extinct animals (those polar bears get us every time) making us constantly aware that our own ignorance, and many times laziness, is what has gotten us to this critical moment in time.

And while the task may seem insurmountable, or uncontrollable, we’ve decided that the best thing we can DO is SOMETHING. Anything! Whether it’s big or small, it will make an impact, as long as we DO SOMETHING!

That’s why as the 40th Earth Day quickly approaches on Saturday, April 17 we are focusing our efforts at home, where we can see a difference and truly feel like we’re making a difference with our SOMETHING.

The best place to start is in your own backyard, in your neighborhood, in your community. Pick just one thing: plant a tree, join the neighborhood clean-up, participate in your communities blackout night…but DO SOMETHING!

The Sprouts more than anyone get it…we get how hard this is to change your habits. No one is perfect, we all have to make choices and the decisions that fit best for us. But if we all just do one thing, just DO SOMETHING, not only will our planet be better for it, but so will we – whether it be in your heart, your head, your lungs, or your pocketbook.

If you’re still at a loss, has a great listing of events, petitions, rally’s, etc. Everyone’s sure to find something there. You can also still join Earth Hour and show your support for clean energy and a clean economy, or simply bring in your own mug to Starbucks today for free coffee – free is always a sure step in changing a habit.

Here’s to DOING SOMETHING and living your best possible life! 

Monday, April 12, 2010

D is for the Sunshine Vitamin

There is a vitamin deficiency that affects over half of the population, is almost never diagnosed, and has been linked to many cancers, high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, depression, bone loss and autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis.

What vitamin is almost totally absent from our food supply?

Vitamin D.  Are you getting enough?

A fat-soluble vitamin, Vitamin D is made in the body after exposure to ultraviolet rays from the sun when the liver and kidneys convert it to its active hormone form, Cholecalciferol, or Vitamin D3.

A lack of sufficient Vitamin D in your body can cause the levels of calcium and phosphorus in your blood to drop, causing bones to become thin, brittle, soft or even misshapen.  This is because Vitamin D’s major biologic function is to aid in the absorption of calcium.

(picture courtesy of

So what does one do to keep sufficient levels of Vitamin D in ones body?
GET OUT IN TO THE SUN!  Sunlight is the most important source of Vitamin D because the UV rays from the sunlight trigger Vitamin D synthesis in the skin. However, with all the fears out there about over exposure to UV rays, over use of sunscreen is the main reason why most people are not getting enough Vitamin D in to their systems.  80% to 100% of our Vitamin D Intake comes from the sun.  Sunscreen blocks out an amazing 97% of our body’s Vitamin D production.

Because of the changing weather and many people living in places where the sun hardly shines, supplementing with Vitamin D is essential.  The exact amount needed will vary depending on your age, how much time you spend in the sun and the time of year, Winter vs. Summer.  The government recommends 200 to 600 IU (International Units) of Vitamin D a day.  This is the amount you need to prevent rickets, a skeletal disease that weakens the bones.  But how much do you need for optimal health?  Our favorite trusted health advisor, Dr Weil, recommends up to 2,000 IU a day, once again depending on personal circumstances.

Fortified foods are the major dietary sources of Vitamin D.  For example, one cup of Vitamin D fortified milk supplies about ¼ of the estimated daily needs for this vitamin.  You should try to eat dietary sources of Vitamin D.  These include fatty fish such as wild salmon or wild mackerel, even eggs, one whole egg contains 20 IU of Vitamin D.  You can also take Vitamin D supplements, but be careful when choosing a supplement as many only contain Vitamin D2, which is not biologically active.

Although consuming too much Vitamin D is possible, it is not probable.  Vitamin D toxicity can cause nausea, vomiting, poor appetite, constipation, weakness and weight loss.  It can also raise blood levels of calcium, causing mental changes such as confusion.  Consuming too much Vitamin D through diet alone is not likely unless you routinely consume large amounts of cod liver oil, which in our opinion would be hard to do.  It is more likely to occur from high intakes of Vitamin D in supplements, so consult a doctor before beginning a Vitamin D regiment.

Get out into the sun as much as you can, be conscience of the amount of sunscreen you use and eat foods high in Vitamin D3, supplementing if necessary, and you will find a healthier, Happier you! 

Here's to living your best possible life!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Cultivating the world around us

Admittedly the Sprouts fell of the blogging bandwagon. No excuses - one of our Sprouts sprouted, and down a cultivator we were doing everything we could to make sure we were cultivating our client's brands with as much love and attention as possible.

We're finally back to 100% and we're growing again! 

Starting Monday we'll pick up where we left off on our A-Z entries with the letter D. And in the coming weeks we'll start sharing more and more about our new sister company, gem - a research recruiting firm that's redefining the research recruit. 

Of course our time off from writing gave us plenty of time to think, and boy do we have lots of ideas and thoughts to share in the coming months. And as always, we hope you'll sound off about what you think as well.  

Until Monday, have a great weekend! 

Here's to living your best possible life! 

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Eat MORE Fruits & Veggies

Hot off the presses today from the UK is a new study that cites fruit and veggies may only reduce your risk of cancer by 3%. And this has the Sprouts a little concerned. 

The observational study conducted by the Tisch Cancer Institute at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York had a very large sample size, 500,000 people in 10 European countries, and it did make adjustments for other factors likely to influence the results, such as smoking, alcohol intake, obesity, consumption of meat and processed meat, exercise and whether women had taken the contraceptive pill or hormone replacement therapy, but we're a little concerned that large sweeping statements are being made by an oversimplified observational study.

Despite the fact we eat our fruits and veggies, unless we're eating organic we may be eating more than just food, we're probably eating cancer causing pesticides. And of course years and years of eating this way can take it's toll.

While the oversimplified research methodology concerns us, it's actually the impact of the study that has us even more worried. Because the sensational aspect of the report, many news agencies are failing to tell, or in some cases burying, one of the most important parts of the research. 

The accompanying editorial by Walter Willett of the Harvard School of Public Health said efforts to increase fruit and vegetable consumption were still worthwhile because accumulating evidence showed that they helped protect against cardiovascular disease and "a small benefit for cancer remains possible". He suggests research now should focus more sharply on specific fruits and vegetables – including lycopene in tomatoes which, studies suggest, helps protect against prostate cancer – and on reducing smoking and obesity. And of course, we're still wondering if eating organic has an affect as well.

So the Sprouts say, "Ignore these stories and eat even more fruits and veggies!" We truly believe the more fruits and vegetables you eat the healthier you are overall; your stronger and more capable of fighting off disease, any disease that might come your way.

Here's to living your best possible life!