The way holistic visionary Deepak Chopra sees it, peace has long been losing the marketing battle with war. War gets major federal funding, Army recruiting ads, and a nationally televised infomercial in the State of the Union address. Peace gets local news coverage of angry mobs waving signs. “Real peace isn’t antiwar demonstrations,” says Chopra. “It’s taking care of the environment, helping the poor achieve economic parity, making sure human rights are protected, and finding nonviolent means of conflict resolution.” He’s hoping his nonprofit Alliance for a New Humanity can turn “real peace” into a consumer trend.
Last April over lunch, Chopra recruited Ubiquity Brands CEO Jeff Dunn, who was previously president of Coca-Cola North America. Dunn, who does yoga, went through a spiritual awakening six years earlier while trying to peddle Coke in the slums of Rio. Chopra was explaining his concept for the alliance’s plan of action when, says Dunn, “my wife Sue said, ‘You’re trying to do what Jeff did for Coke. You’re trying to brand peace!’ And I literally watched the lightbulb go on over his head.”
Dunn ticks off the three stages to brand development: identifying your target audience, positioning your brand, and, finally, “activating” the consumer—who progresses from product trial to brand loyalty. The target audience here is the easy part. They’re the people Dunn refers to as “conscious consumers,” those who, given a choice between two similar products, choose the one made by a company with better social and environmental policies. Still, citing a Sustainability Institute report, Dunn says only 3 or 4 percent of consumers worldwide do this consistently. Dunn thinks if they can get that number up to 10 percent, “we’d see a sea change relative to the degradation of the planet.” To get there, the alliance will have to remove peace’s hippie stigma and “reposition” it, making the established brand hip once again. Like Burberry: “It went from being this old English company that produced raincoats to a great fashion force among twentysomethings.” Dunn hopes to “turn the peace sign upside down” and create a logo (“it kind of looks like a tree”) to put on peace-friendly products. Think of it as the Green Housekeeping seal of approval. There might even be an alliance-approved credit card. (Bono just launched American Express Red, which gives money to aids research.)
Dunn says funding needs for the alliance are minimal, since “it exists in the white space” between consumers and NGOs (like Save the Children and care), enabling volunteerism as well as the consumption of products that further the NGOs’ goals. The usual anonymous benefactors and, later, a percentage of the profits from each marked product, will cover operational costs.
With or without the alliance logo, Chopra believes consumerism can trump geopolitics. “For example,” says Chopra, “if we could get India and Pakistan and Kashmir to see that there’s a huge economic incentive for Kashmir to be the Switzerland of the East, the ski resort of the world in that area, then maybe they’ll see that it doesn’t matter what flag they fly over it.”