Are corporations people? I’ll leave that for legal scholars to decide.
Are corporations funny? Uh, almost never.
Today’s evidence comes in a breathtakingly dumb digital ad campaign from Clorox Green Works. It runs the risk of insulting the consumers of its environmentally-friendly cleaning products while managing to ridicule millions of people who are trying to be more conscious about the social and environmental impacts of the things they buy.
Worse, it’s not even funny.
See for yourself, if you can bear it.
Now, I’ll admit that deep green consumers can be extreme. I’m recalling, right about now, the menu of a 100% organic vegan restaurant called Cafe Gratitude in Santa Cruz where dishes had silly names like “I am Fulfilled” and “I am Open Hearted.” The food turned out to be fantastic.
But Clorox, instead of guiding people through a confusing landscape of sustainability claims, here chooses to caricatures conscious consumers as people who reuse dental floss, who say things like “I can’t believe you’re wearing leather,” who ask irritating questions about the provenance of their fish and who go ga-ga over “local, gluten-free, bio-dynamic, Fair Trade, dolphin-safe, edible” hair conditioner.
I honestly don’t understand what Green Works is trying to do, and reading the press release accompanying this marketing campaign only confused me further.
In the news release, the company says that women “feel more pressure to beautify the Earth than their own bodies.” Call me crazy, but this strikes me as a good thing. We’d all be better off if women (and men) spent more time worrying about the planet than, say, their hair.
But to GreenWorks, this pressure to be green is a problem:
”We believe women are feeling this pressure because somewhere along the line green became a status symbol now everyone has an opinion about how you aren’t doing enough to be eco-friendly.” said Shekinah Eliassen, Green Works brand manager. “With all of the different challenges surrounding green, we believe it’s time to make eco-friendly people friendly again.”
Personally, I wish Clorox and Ms. Eliassen felt a little more pressure to use punctuation. That aside, the company goes on to say:
As the trend of being green grows, issues with green like eco-exclusion are popping up and being discussed by media, bloggers, influencers and consumers. Green Works is taking these issues head on with a new marketing campaign that pokes fun at how ridiculous green has become, in an effort to remind people that every environmental effort counts.
Starting this month, consumers will see digital advertising, interactive elements and a public relations campaign that proclaim “You Don’t Have to be Ridiculous to be Green” and messages aimed at making eco-friendly people friendly again, with the ultimate mission of making green accessible and practical.
And just how are we to accomplish that mission of making green accessible and practical. In an infographic that’s part of the campaign, the company explain:
When did green become so extreme? We applaud simple acts 0f green-ness, like using hard working, plant-based cleaners powered by the Clorox company.
So, if I am following the logic here…. buying a Clorox Green Works products deserve applause, while paying attention to the environmental impact of leather or the benefits of Fair Trade is extreme or ridiculous.
The early reaction on Twitter:
— Natalie H (@NatalieHoage) January 28, 2013
— Crystal Wiltshire (@CrysWiltshire) January 28, 2013
— PhD in Parenting (@phdinparenting) January 28, 2013
— Kendra (@butterfly1979_) January 28, 2013
Lest you think I am a humorless environmentalist, I invite you to take just a minute compare Clorox’s marketing with this spot from Unilever, which is trying in a helpful way to change consumer behavior around water use. Few topics are more boring than water conservation, but this commercial for Axe manages to be, yes, funny.
All I can say to Clorox Green Works: What were you thinking?