Are You In ‘The Gort Cloud’? A Book Review

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The Gort Cloud:
The Invisible Force Powering Today’s Most Visible Green Brands
by Richard Seireeni with Scott Fields
240 pp. Chelsea Green

It is like what Van Jones called the “invisible network of networks.” Everyone who is in it (and some who stand outside it) know it is there, but they just aren’t sure how to define it, or what shape it takes.

In a new book called The Gort Cloud, branding expert Richard Seireeni takes a stab at capturing the moving target of social networks, sustainability, and green business and captures it with the perfect metaphor — a cloud. But Seireeni doesn’t use any old cloud for his metaphor, the book gets its name from an amorphous field of stellar debris called the Oort Cloud. Seireeni writes:

“I began to think of this particular green network as something tangible with a mission and with a collective membership of like-mined people. It wasn’t a single community. It wasn’t a movement, It defied easy definition.”

Named after the astronomer Jan Hendrick Oort, who originally theorized the stellar cloud’s existence, the Oort Cloud is totally invisible to human observation, which Seireeni argues makes it perfectly analogous to the green network which has so much impact on the success/failure of green brands. He writes:

“This seems to perfectly describe the Gort Cloud, a vast green network made up of untidy bits that is most easily detected through electronic means and that has a huge effect on the evolution of green business.”

“Think of it as a giant green Rolodex”

Taking a page from Clay Shirkey’s 2008 analysis of activism 2.0, Here Comes Everybody, Seireeni Steers his first book in a decidedly “green” direction, focusing on the companies that have had the most success building a green brand, and the various groups of players that helped them get there. And that’s where you come in.

Just by reading this review, you haveβ€”whether you know it or notβ€”entered the Gort Cloud.

Some components of the green network Seireeni writes about are Providers (good and services); Rule Makers and Watchdogs (NGOs, Gov’t Agencies); Advocacy Groups; Special Interests; Information Disseminators; Social Networks, and; In-Person Exchanges (conferences, tradeshows, etc.).

“Successful green marketing comes from the inside and works out”

the gort cloudMixing cases studies of such perennial green brands as Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps and Vermont ice cream makers Ben & Jerry’s with newer companies like Tesla Motors and recent converts like the carpet-tile manufacturer Interface Inc., Seireeni’s case studies are rich and full of detail.

Venturing into the world of “trendspotters” like TreeHugger and Inhabitat (among many other blogs and green networks) Seireeni approaches the difficult task of writing a book about the dynamic world of the green web 2.0 by fully recognizing that: A) some of his subjects may not even exist by the time the book goes to print (as is the case with Treehugger’s hugg.com), and; B) some of his subjects may not exactly fit into their given categories come printing time (i.e our very own Green Options as a “social network”).

From an academic perspective, I found the Gort Cloud to be a bit under-theorized, especially in terms of how trendspotters, bloggers and social media mavens communicate with each other and with the “outside” world. But, considering the book was not written for an academic audience, this may be as much a strength as it is a weakness.

Finally, while the impact of twitter may not have been mentioned explicitly (quite understandably) in Seireeni’s treatment of the world of communicating in green networks, there is no reason to believe that it wouldn’t map perfectly onto the Gort Cloud platform. If anything, twitter might even epitomize it! And that is what makes the book a worthy contribution to the green marketing and web 2.0 canon.

Learn more at The Gort Cloud website.

  1. Jean-Luc Marcoux

    As an avid reader on green and eco marketing issues and a pragmatic eco-enrepreneur how does “The Gort Cloud” positions itself in relations to “The Green Marketing Manifesto” from J.Grant or “Green to gold” from Esty and Winston?

  2. Radu Voinescu

    Wow! The first time I see all those things (trends, networks, agencies, people) in the same big picture. Thank you for this unique synthesis, which helped me better understand where I/we stand.

  3. Jim

    Did anyone else come to the conclusion that to write a “hard book” on this subject doesn’t sound right? Why not do an “electronic book” that can be current and updated so that the information and references and examples don’t become outdated by the time it is published. It could be downloaded for a price. It would also be “much greener” and energy wise.

  4. Fawn

    @Jean-Luc: The book states that it’s not a book about sustainable economics, such as Green-to-Gold, nor about eco-design/tech, nor a personal how-to-be-greener handbook. He places it adjacent to Lester Brown’s survival strategy in “Plan B 3.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization,” as this is a book on green branding that profiles business leaders and their businesses as they are working to make the world a better place.

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