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green@work : Magazine : Back Issues : May/June 2006 : Marketing


Killing the Competition
Could a new, environmentally safer insecticide reinvent the way the market views its sometimes-dangerous mainstream alternatives?

by Holly Bornstein

Is a passionate and brilliant business owner with a unique, useful and safe product enough to reinvent a category? The answer might very well be yes, but after 10 years and a lot of headway, there is still more to be done.

The product category is insecticides, and the product is Bugs ‘R’ Done™. Environmental engineer Robert L. Rod invented this product 10 years ago and brought it to market following a long and successful career in the aerospace industry. Because the product doesn’t poison bugs, it doesn’t poison people. Bugs ‘R’ Done dissolves the lining that waterproofs an insect’s breathing passages. Clogging the passageways quickly leads to the insect’s death. The key ingredients are all named by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration as “GRAS”—Generally Regarded as Safe in human foods—and the product bears a warning-free Environmental Protection Agency-approved label in the EPA’s least hazardous category IV. “We’re the only one that is patented and EPA-registered,” Rod explained.

Through a number of distribution relationships Rod has achieved national distribution among natural-food stores, including Whole Foods. The product is also available online, sold through Licensing is another distribution tool employed by the company. One targets the allergy/asthma sufferer; another is a major licensee who privately labels the formulation.

This product is a green marketer’s dream—there’s enormous market potential: agriculture, restaurants/food preparation, schools, doctor and veterinarian offices and hospitals, as well as inside and outside homes. In classic product-adoption fashion, Bugs ‘R’ Done has a few early adopter user groups: people who seek out healthy products for their home (environmentalists), pet owners and allergy sufferers. The company currently markets the product primarily through public relations and search engines—the firm directs traffic to their site via three different URLs:, and
Going to market

There are several ways the company can use marketing to grow market share and move beyond its core constituency. Allow me to present some ideas:

1. Educate through mainstream publicity.

• With publicity in mainstream publications, Bugs ‘R’ Done can begin to raise awareness that current insecticide products should be replaced—and of course, introduce the alternative. As mainstream media continue to devote much coverage to green building, there could be a natural segue to indoor air quality and the insecticide issue.

• In the past six months, the product has already been featured in a few mainstream publications, with pet-safety articles in the New York Daily News and the New York Post. Bugs ‘R’ Done should build on this momentum and expand the story beyond the pet owner. Families with a baby and/or pregnant women would be a natural next step.

2. Step up search-engine activity (for example, on sites like Google and Yahoo). A strong search-engine strategy is vital. According to Nielsen/NetRatings, 92 percent of the online population visits a search engine, portal or community site every month.

• Pay-per-click—also called paid-for search engine placements. Today, virtually all search engines offer a paid-for option that guarantees almost instantaneous visibility on their search results pages.

• Search Engine Optimization—the process of consistently fine-tuning a Web site’s components in order to improve its search engine rankings.

3. Create Evangelists: Loyal customers can convince others there is an alternative that works.

• Empower loyal users to be your spokespeople. For example, include a sample shipped with online orders that can be given to a friend. A well-worded message in the package can remind them of the product's virtues and increase the chance they will pass it along to a friend rather than keeping it for themselves.

4. Explore a redesign of the label

• Catching a customer’s eye as he or she passes the product on the shelf can be a make-or-break proposition. Research would help determine whether the current label effectively appeals to the mainstream customer—or can be made to appeal even more.

5. Communicate directly to key influencers.

• Start by targeting a particular group (for example, school administrators). Create an information package and a way to sample the product. In addition to converting the schools, the spillover effect will bring parents, lunchroom workers and others into contact with the product. In the mid-nineties I worked on a very successful program for Levi Strauss and Co. that helped to accelerate the casual business trend through a marketing and education program that was mailed to human resource managers. This is the same concept—just a different product.

• Take this a step further by launching this program around a new distribution channel—Costco, for example—and negotiate a product sales test with them.

Ideas such as these could make Bugs ‘R’ Done a product of choice for the growing market of environment-conscious consumers. This would, in turn, force bigger companies to offer safe and effective products—and it may not be long before the Orkin Man is as benign as the ice cream man.

Author’s note: It is interesting to note that there is an increase in lymphoma incidence in communities in which farming is prevalent. Studies point to specific ingredients in herbicides and pesticides as being associated with lymphoma occurrence, but the quantitative contribution of such exposures to the frequency of lymphoma has not been defined. (Source: The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society). This article is dedicated to my brother-in-law, who is bravely battling lymphoma.

Holly Bornstein is the founder and principal partner of Propel Marketing, LLC, a direct-marketing firm that specializes in green products and services. A common thread through her marketing practice and articles is accelerating the adoption of green products and services among mainstream consumers and businesses. She can be reached at

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