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Vanusa

Jason, it reminds me of the runup to the last UK eleioctns, where a Tory party leader was talking about how they needed to reinvent themselves as a kindler, gentler Tory Party to get the votes of what he called the wristband generation he was so clueless as to how *bad* it looked to be saying on the Beeb that they needed to work harder at crafting a targeted marketing message to convince the sincere altruistic young people of Gens X-Y-Z to buy their brand, and how absolutely obtuse a strategy this was, even *without* the getting quoted on the BBC website saying it!

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Indeed, Greenpeace has become quite good at those spoof ads. They are becoming a bit too systematic I fear, but they have large viral impact. But it is essential brands and corporations continue to walk AND talk in this area, even if they can't be 'squeaky clean' as you say. The risk is there, but it can be managed. Cleaning your own backyard is always a sound starting point but keep in mind that the backyard of a large global brand is, well... large!

Raising an issue like the one Dove has raised with the campaign for real beauty is of course exposing the brand to attacks in other areas. Dove decide to focus on a People issue, and may have left the Planet side unattended for too long, hence the backlash.

A key principle to limit the risk is to focus your efforts and resources on the issue that is most central to your brand's footprint and reputation.

Eventually, what matters is the response and reactivity of the brand and business to such attacks. Since the campaign, Unilever has indeed established new policies on palm oil. Consumers and stakeholders alike, want to know if you really mean it. In turn, if the brand does well, this can work as positive PR. Check out the 'how green is your apple?' campaign on Greenpeace and how Steve Jobs responded and hinted at what should be the next question which should be '...but what are all our competitors doing?'

David Taylor (brandgym)

Paul, Thanks for this and the link to the Greenpeace video about palm tree de-forestation.

You are right to flag the risks of promoting your ethical credentials. Also, things get messy when company and brand get mixed up. The Greenpeace film mimmicks the Dove Viral Video style, and references the brand, even though it is only one of many Unilever brands using palm oil. It also seems tough that none of the many other companies using palm oil are mentioned, only Unilever. I guess they picked one high-profile brand to beat up on.

From experience of working with Unilever they seem genuinely to be a company that cares. They are about as close to clean as any major multinational I know. For example, they led the creation of the Marine Stewardship Council that tries to protect the fish stocks. And you can see from the update on the You Tube site from Greenpeace that Unilever have "agreed to support the call by Greenpeace for an immediate moratorium on deforestation for palm oil plantations... and to urgently contact other major companies calling on them to support the moratorium."

I will pass the baton to Anne, our BSR expert to see what she has to add.


Paul

hi David, hope you're well. enjoying your blog. What are your thoughts on the video greenpeace did on dove? Is it dangerous for unilever to take high ground on social issues if they are not squeaky clean?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=odI7pQFyjso

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