Pinkwashing and why firms in the UAE must do better on cause-engagement

WTCAD Photo

Does this image convey a message on breast cancer awareness to you? No, me neither.

October has passed, and I wanted to share a summary of some of the corporate outreach I’ve seen around the perennial cause of choice at this time of year, namely breast cancer. In many countries around the world, including the UAE, October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which is an annual campaign to increase awareness of the disease.

I’m writing this post in the hope that brands understand the need not only to raise awareness of Breast Cancer, but also to support charities either through direct contributions or through cause-related marketing, such as providing a percentage of revenues for a specific product to a charity.

Here are examples of how some brands are promoting themselves, whilst not doing enough in my opinion to support a charity cause.

Staying in The Pink of Health – Tea Time at Al Bayt, Palace Downtown

Honestly, I don’t know where to begin with this idea. Is it enough to create a tenuous link to breast cancer by the use of the color pink (in this case, afternoon tea with a pink theme), without supporting a local charity?

The palatial surroundings and views of Burj Lake at Al Bayt, our lobby lounge, enlivens the time-honoured tradition of afternoon tea. The experience takes on an even more special dimension during the month of October, where you not only savour an assortment of delicious sweet and savoury treats with an unlimited selection of premium tea and coffee, but also participate in the Breast Cancer Awareness initiative every Wednesday, Friday and Saturday with a special pink theme. We see it as part of our social responsibility, an experience we encourage you to share with friends and family.

Pink yoga session promotes breast cancer awareness at The St. Regis Saadiyat Island Resort, Abu Dhabi

While there’s a link between exercise and cancer, does a ‘Pink Yoga’ session warrant a media communication? Is this another unwarranted attempt to PR a charity issue, without enough thought as to what the call to action will be?

Hotel guests got in the pink yesterday in support of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

The St. Regis Saadiyat Island Resort, Abu Dhabi hosted a session of ‘Pink Yoga’ to promote the health benefits of regular exercise – with all participants asked to wear the color.

Admission was complimentary for people staying at the resort, members of The St. Regis Athletic Club, where the class was held.

People who visit the hotel on or before Saturday will be greeted by a floral arrangement of blush-hued blooms in keeping with the annual health campaign, which is held around the globe each October.

The flowers will remain in the building’s main entrance until Saturday.

Researchers have identified a link between the likelihood of developing breast cancer and being overweight or obese. Regular physical activity and the maintenance of a healthy body weight, along with a healthy diet, can considerably reduce the risk of developing several kinds of the disease, the World Health Organization has stated.

Go Pink This Month With Tweezerman

This announcement takes the prize for the worst possible communication on breast cancer. Whilst the company says that it allocates a portion of its profits to charitable organizations, while actively supporting local communities, there’s no mention anywhere in the communications of who these recipients may be or if my purchase during the month will mean a contribution to a local charity in the UAE. The communication is below:

Pink tweezerman

The beauty tool brand, loved by makeup artists and beauty enthusiasts alike, both locally and internationally, Tweezerman presents the Pink Slant Tweezer in honour of Breast Cancer awareness month.

Like every beauty tool by Tweezerman the Pink Slant Tweezer has a perfectly calculated tension and ergonomic shape for comfort and control and an award-winning hand – filled precision tip, the best for eyebrow shaping.

How To Get Cause-Related Marketing Right

There are so many more bad examples from October out there (including the featured image at the top of the post). Dressing your staff in pink, serving cupcakes and then communicating with the media/through digital channels doesn’t mean that you’re supporting the fight against breast cancer.

I’ve written on the issue of not-for-profit marketing right before, but it still seems that brands aren’t understanding that they need to put in more than a couple of hours thought into this type of exercise. Here’s a simple to-do list:

  1. Build your activity around a consumer insight.
  2. Make sure your brand aligns with the cause.
  3. Involve a charity partner and define your brand’s social responsibility.
  4. Develop a simple promise/call-to-action using clear messaging and accountable outcomes.

If you’re not getting these four steps right, then don’t jump in. The worst thing you can do for a brand is either pinkwash or greenwash. You’re eroding consumer trust in your brand, and your customers will move to another brand that they deem to be more honest.

Brands in the UAE, I hope you’re listening.

How do you make a whole country hate a child-focused health intervention programme? Ask Nido…

It’s not often that the first (and most popular) comment on a YouTube video is a request for ISIS to blow up a company’s headquarters. However, as I have learned time and time again, anything is possible when you combine the Gulf’s nationals with social media and an issue they’re passionate about.

To cut a long story short, a video for Nestle’s Nido brand been trending in Saudi. The video tells the story of an initiative by Nestle and the company’s consumers on the occasion of the powdered milk brand’s 70th anniversary, to provide 14 million cups of milk to 40,000 children for six months. The activation is a cause-related marketing exercise which involves the region’s shoppers. And you’d think everyone would love it; who doesn’t like seeing kids being fed and a corporation giving away its products to a good cause?

Well, here’s the issue. Someone behind the video/brand thought it’d be a good idea to boost the number of videos through paid media. For the space of how many days beginning from the 3rd of March, this video was everywhere. To the extent that it’s been watched over ten million times. Which is great, if you like big viewer numbers. However, people don’t like to be forced to do anything online, especially being forced to watch the same video over and over and over again.

The statistics sum it all up – 419 likes versus 9,663 dislikes. But it’s the venom in the comments, the hatred of how someone (please stand up) who has decided to spend a load of cash to promote the video has ruined the viewing experience of tens of thousands of Saudis who have had to sit through this content. Saudis complained en mass, even going so far as to tweet @nidoarabia and @nestle to ask them to stop promoting the video as well as reporting the video as spam. Peeved that their own content is being pushed to one side and having to deal with disgruntled YouTubers, Saudi content creators have apologizing endlessly. And there’s even been calls for a boycott. Now, that’s how you change beliefs and habits whilst also inspiring action Nestle!

The comments, many of which are hilarious, range from pure hatred of the brand’s blanket to many admitting they’re now beginning to hate drinking milk (and children…).

We've had enough of Nido!

We’ve had enough of Nido!

There were some Saudis even reminiscing for Marwan Taloudi, the man who spammed Saudis with his YouTube get-rich-quick ads.

YouTube is still a business after all, but if you’re going to get people to like what you do, then don’t shove it down their throats for days on end.

And just cause I love you all, and I love Nido even more, I’d like to share the video with you. I hope you enjoy watching the most hated video in Saudi right now.

A big thanks to Osama Natto for the story and the content.

Has Coca Cola hit or missed the CSR mark with its Happiness Phone Booth labourer project?

Coca Cola is all about happiness. The soft drinks giant has been looking to associate itself with the concept of happiness for years, and these efforts regularly involve cause-related marketing activations. The latest effort by Coca Cola in the United Arab Emirates, named Happiness Phone Booth, gave laborers in the country an opportunity to make a call home. The special Hello booths didn’t accept coins but rather Coca-Cola bottle caps. Each bottle of Coca-Cola could be “turned into” a 3-minute free international phone call. Watch the clip below to understand the project in its entirety.

The controversy about this idea, which is clear in the comments underneath the video, is about the source of the bottle tops themselves. Are the labourers given Coca Cola bottles? If so, then why not make this clear on the video. If not, either the labourers have to spend two Dirhams out of their daily 18 Dirham salary on a bottle or find other means (which I’ll leave to your imagination).

So Coca Cola, shouldn’t you have targeted a group of the population who can afford your products for this cause-based marketing campaign?

What are your thoughts? Has Coca Cola done good? Or can it do better?