Purpose marketing hits and misses

Purpose marketing hits and misses

As part of Ad Age’s weekly Marketer’s Brief podcast, on a monthly basis, we will explore the best and worst purpose marketing ads with Thomas Kolster, founder and creative director at Copenhagen-based Goodvertising Agency, which advises companies and organizations on how to turn environmental, societal and health risks into market opportunities. Below, Kolster's opinions on some recent campaigns.

Mentos is using some unlikely stars to help push a recycling message—raccoons. A campaign that debuted in October shows the critters digging through trash cans on the streets of Simi Valley, California, gathering Mentos paperboard gum bottles and putting them in recycling bins. Highdive handled the ad.

Mentos says the bottle, which debuted in February, is 90% recyclable. It cites a statistic from Green Print Survey showing that only 32% of Americans recycle, even though 78% of the population is more likely to purchase a product that is clearly labeled as environmentally friendly.

The brand has encouraged consumers to text "RACCOONS" to 1-833-RACYCLE to request that the Raccoon Recycling Force visit their town. 

“They stay on brand, it's fun, it’s quirky, it feels like Mentos—and they get out of this gloom-and-doom typical more recycling messaging stuff that we usually here,” Kolster said. He also credited the brand for using “behavioral change mechanics,” saying, “they ask us to do something which is simple.” 

Kolster is also a fan of Heinz’s recent Halloween campaign from Wieden+Kennedy NY that tapped influencer EJ Marcus, who has almost 400,000 followers on TikTok, to play the vampire character known as “Toby the Vegetarian Vampire.” He promotes the brand’s “Tomato Blood” ketchup.

While it’s not a purpose ad in the truest sense, Kolster credits the brand for casting vegetarianism in a positive light—which is a notable move for a brand that relies on plenty of meat eaters to put condiments on hamburgers and hotdogs. 

“For most people, Heinz is still [associated with] barbeque meat,” but it’s a good move for them to associate ketchup with Brussels sprouts, broccoli “or whatever makes vegetarians happy,” Kolster said. But “they do it tongue in cheek,” he said. “If they had taken this topic too seriously, I think it would have backfired on them.”

Kolster’s last hit comes from Scotland-based beer brand Brewdog, which has taken a shot at World Cup host Qatar—and its poor human rights record—by positioning itself as the anti-sponsor of the World F*Cup.The brand on its website states: “Football is meant to be for everyone. But in Qatar, homosexuality is illegal, flogging is an accepted form of punishment, and it's OK for 6,500 workers to die building your stadium,” referring to allegations from activists that thousands of migrant workers have died from the heat and poor working conditions while constructing World Cup venues in Qatar. 

Brewdog backs it up by pledging to donate 100% of the profits from every Lost Lager sold during the tournament to “registered charities that demonstrably and directly help those who have been affected by human rights injustices and violations in Qatar.”

“I just love how they insert themselves so cleverly into one the most expensive sponsorships,” Kolster said. “They are the little David that is pushing Goliath,” he said, referring to Anheuser-Busch InBev, which actually pays money to sponsor the Cup. “It’s really simple creative copywriting. They get to truly position themselves on values.”

Not everyone is a fan of the campaign, however. Critics say Brewdog is hypocritical because its beers are sold in Qatar. They have also said the brewer is still profiting off the Cup by showing games in its bars.

Brewdog co-founder James Watt on LinkedIn defended the move, saying: ​​”The truth is, we will raise more money to do good if we show the matches in our bars.” He later added: “We do not sell direct to Qatar, but we do have a relationship with a distributor that sells into multiple middle eastern markets, primarily into Dubai but including Qatar. Apple sells iPhones in Qatar & China—that doesn’t mean it endorses human rights records of these governments. Neither do we.”

Kolster is not a fan of the approach Procter & Gamble has taken with its “Closing America’s Smile Gap.” It uses Crest and Oral B to call attention to the fact that Black and Hispanic children are two to four times more likely to have cavities and other dental problems. P&G promotes the effort with ads showing children brushing their teeth with their fingers.

Kolster said the campaign does “hot have enough interesting compelling storytelling. It just sort of lands a little flat with me.”

Lastly, Kolster on the podcast discusses some heat that HSBC bank has gotten recently over U.K. ads seen on bus stops in London and Bristol in October 2021. The ads included language such as: "Climate change doesn’t do borders. Neither do rising sea levels. That’s why HSBC is aiming to provide up to $1 trillion in financing and investment globally to help our clients transition to net zero.”

U.K. watchdog group Advertising Standards Authority fielded complaints last month that the ads were misleading because “they omitted significant information about HSBC’s contribution to carbon dioxide and greenhouse gas emissions.” The ASA says it “told HSBC UK Bank plc to ensure that future marketing communications featuring environmental claims were adequately qualified and did not omit material information about its contribution to carbon dioxide and greenhouse gas emissions.”

Said Kolster: “Always substantiate your claim and don’t try to pull away from the real facts.”

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