Ken Dumps Barbie – or, Where is your Company at Risk?

By Jim Lyza, Qualitative Research Analyst

We perform social media audits for our clients on a regular basis, so we can help them identify areas of opportunity and threat in the social sphere so they can respond accordingly.  And if you don’t spend as much time as I do listening to chatter in the social sphere you might not have heard the latest:

Ken decided to call it quits with Barbie just because she doesn’t care about sustainable packaging.

Well, at least that’s what Greenpeace says. In fact, Greenpeace has been especially adept at proving that social media can be used to ‘force’ large companies to be more sustainable –  Mattel being the most recent example. Greenpeace is very concerned about the endangered Sumatran Tiger and its Indonesian Rainforest habitat – and that put Asia Pulp and Paper (AP&P) in its sights, whom Greenpeace accuses of destroying the Indonesian Rainforest. Since Mattel had been using AP&P as a packaging source, Greenpeace created a campaign to generate consumer activism against Mattel. The campaign not only included Greenpeace standards (i.e., banners on the corporate headquarters), but also used Twitter to simulate a mock feud between Ken and Barbie, as well as Facebook ads (which were eventually pulled due to intellectual property complaints). Eventually, Mattel changed their packaging policies to avoid “controversial” sources (read AP&P), incorporate more recycled paper in their products, and increase the use of Forest Stewardship Council-certified wood products.

While you may not agree with their politics or tactics, you cannot argue the results: Greenpeace is very successful at using social media to force companies to be more sustainable. They have a strong social presence and active followers. If the Mattel story doesn’t convince you, then take a look at their campaigns against Kimberly-Clark’s Kleenex, or Nestle’s Kit-Kat and palm oil.

So be vigilant. Are you a potential target? Have you reviewed your packaging sources? Is there something about your company that would lead you to be in the cross-hairs of a viral social media campaign? If you’re not looking at the sustainable aspects of your business, you can be sure somebody else probably is.

Lee Ann Head

About Lee Ann Head

Lee Ann started Shelton Group's research department in 2000 and now oversees all custom and proprietary research. She directs a staff that designs quantitative and qualitative studies, and she oversees secondary analyses, digging deep to find the nuggets of information that pave the way for successful insights, strategies and creative. She regularly presents findings to clients and industry groups around the country, as well as in her posts on the Shelton Insights blog.

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