Archive for the packaging Category

Target publishes its Bangladesh Factory details

Posted in advertising, business, ethics, fashion, Marketing, packaging, sustainability with tags , on August 14, 2014 by marketingheart

Many moons have passed since April 2013 when the Rana Plaza building containing three clothing factories collapsed in Bangladesh taking with it the lives of over 1100 workers, and injuring countless more – locals say the building housed around 6,000 workers. Following the collapse, activists were able to enter the ruins and discovered labels from brands including Primark and Mango, indicating that they were sourcing from the factories. Rana Plaza also produced for a host of well known brand names including Benetton, JC Penney, C&A and Wal-Mart. This collapse followed the Tazreen factory fire in the same district that killed 112 workers five months ago, and the Spectrum Factory collapse of 2005 which caused the death of at least 64 workers. Pro-labor advocates blamed the disasters not just on a lack of regulations, but on a pattern of  violent suppression of workers’ organizing efforts. Although the US imposed trade sanctions on Bangladesh to pressure them to clean up their act, progress has been disappointing. Similarly the fight to get retailers to compensate victims is perhaps predictably mired with only a third of the $40 million total needed to compensate survivors and families of the dead for lost income and medical expenses  having been contributed 12 months after the event according to the Clean Clothes Campaign.

Half the brands associated with the building’s collapse have yet to put any money at all towards compensation — at least, not publicly.

Notwithstanding that, the disaster effectively pressured retailers to be more discriminating about their supply chain, and happily the latest to publicise the results of the clean-up is Target Australia which has just published its factory list. Kudos. Oxfam Australia’s corporate accountability and fair trade adviser, Daisy Gardener, said Kmart and Woolworths had aslo joined, “in being open and accountable about exactly where its clothes are made”.

Changing consumer attitudes towards fast fashion is another thing altogether.


PRODUCTS. NOW EVEN BIGGER! (than they really are)

Posted in Marketing, advertising, ethics, packaging with tags on August 9, 2012 by marketingheart

As I sat glumly awaiting my train with the other commuters in the underground station, I contemplated the image in front of me. It seemed putting this up in an underground station is a little like sending holiday brochures to somebody in prison.

Then something ht me…the product pack is about 25% bigger than reality.
This is a common technique in advertising. In fact, in my very first job we worked on an el-cheapo furniture account. The product was all undersized, a three seater couch would sit two and a half men, etc. We had to scout for tiny models to make the stuff look normal. Shoots were bizarre, all these 5 foot high people running around, I haven’t felt so statuesque since taking a holiday in Guatemala.

Sorry about the terrible photo, it’s taken underground!


Coca Cola muscles out environmental concerns in the Grand Canyon

Posted in business, government, packaging, politics, sustainability with tags , , , , , , on December 2, 2011 by marketingheart

Pristine wilderness under pressure

Here’s a cautionary tale about the reliance by public bodies on private funding if ever there was one. Coca Cola has donated over $13m to the US National Parks, so, whether they really have any sort of commitment to environmental issues or not,  at the very least they must get the PR benefit of looking like they do, right?

So it comes as a surprise to read how the company turned psycho when the custodians of the extremely fragile Grand Canyon National Park declared a ban on disposable plastic water bottles…and successfully pressured the Parks to reverse the ban.

This despite the Parks having gone to lengths to work with the local retailers who would be affected by the ban. However, possibly assuming that if small retailers could overlook a minor dent in their sales in order to protect a world heritage site so could a global corporation, they neglected to deal with the bully in the room.

Nor the coward, apparently. Neil J. Mulholland, president of the parks foundation, said a Coca-Cola representative contacted him late in the process to ask for details of the bottle ban and how it would work. “There was not an overt statement made to me that they objected to the ban,” Mulholland claims. “There was never anything inferred by Coke that if this ban happens, we’re losing their support.” Nonetheless, he simply folded at the very idea and halted the plan to ban.

A Cocal Cola spokesperson said “Banning anything is never the right answer,” she said. “If you do that, you don’t necessarily address the problem.”

Erm, so banning plastic bottles doesn’t address the issue of discarded plastic bottles? I’m waiting to hear from CC exactly what their solution might be. It’s estimated that water bottles make up 30% of the Park’s solid waste. A ban isn’t a radical new idea – Zion National Park already has a ban. What perplexes me here is the value of water sales in the national Park vs the damaging PR generated by this story. CC’s behaviour seems like a mean, heavy-handed, ignorant, greedy over-reaction…entirely consistent with the idea of the corporation as psychopath.

Read more:

98% of ‘green’ products are a con; caveat emptor

Posted in food, government, Marketing, advertising, ethics, packaging, sustainability with tags , , , , , , on February 19, 2011 by marketingheart

Could this be the very height of cynicism, the dark heart of the packaged goods industry: More than 98% of supposedly “natural” products in the US are making potentially false or misleading claims, according to TerraChoice, an environmental consulting firm following a survey of nearly 4,000 consumer products which recorded unverifiable information and blatant lies.

Once again, the poor old consumers need to go on the defensive; British consumer spend on environmentally green goods increased five-fold from £1.4bn in 1999 to £7bn in 2009 – and unsurprisingly there has also been a corresponding rise in confusing advertising labels as marketers rush to cash in. Green, natural, eco-friendly, recyclable, fragrance free….can you believe what you read? Around the world, government agencies regulating the labeling and advertising of goods are struggling with what the term “natural” actually means.  This has led to there being very little guidance on the use of “natural” on labels and in advertising.

TerraChoice claims the 7 most common misleading and deceptive tactics used by manufacturers and marketers are::

  1. The Hidden Trade-off suggests that a product is ‘green’ based on a narrow set of attributes without attention to other important environmental issues. Paper, for example, is not necessarily environmentally-preferable just because it comes from a sustainably-harvested forest.
  2. No Proof when environmental assertions are not backed up by evidence or third-party certification. For example facial tissue products that claim various percentages of post-consumer recycled content without providing any supporting details.
  3. Vagueness when a marketing claim is so lacking in specifics it becomes meaningless. ‘”All-natural” is an example of this Sin. Arsenic, uranium, mercury, and formaldehyde are all naturally occurring, and poisonous. “All natural” isn’t necessarily “green.”
  4. False Labels when there is a false suggestion or certification-like image to mislead consumers into thinking that a product has been through a legitimate green certification process – often the company’s own in-house environmental program for which there is no explanation.
  5. Irrelevance for instance the claim that a product is “CFC-free,”  since CFCs are banned by law.
  6. Lesser of Two Evils ie ‘green’ claims for a product category that is itself lacking in environmental benefits. Organic cigarettes are an example of this phenomenon.
  7. Lying is when environmental claims are outright false. One common example is products falsely claiming to be Energy Star certified.
  8. Selective greening. A company may market a valid green product whilst also being involved in a range of other environmentally damaging products or activities…note really deceptive as far as the validly green product goes, but does this company have the right to green claims?

The poor old consumer looking to find the 2% of products that are actually natural has some work to do. And here is how you can start:

  • Don’t trust the label as fact.  Understand that just cause it says natural, does not mean it really is.
  • Shop with a discerning eye.  If it is too good to be true it most likely is, and the claim is just advertising hype.
  • Read the ingredients carefully.  Fake natural products often will have a long list of ingredients full of chemicals that may be harmful.
  • Compare similar products.  Look at the ingredients of one product that claims to be natural and one that does not, and see if there are any differences.
  • When in doubt check with a health professional.

In Australia, the law that covers greenwashing is the Trade Practices Act 1974 – that’s right, 1974!!! Hardly cutting edge legislation keeping up with consumer and marketing patterns. However, a few big names have been prosecuted under it. For example, in September of 2008 the Federal Court of Australia ruled that General Motors had broken this law with an advertisement that proclaimed the carbon neutrality of Saab cars. On closer inspection, it was clear that the 17 native trees the company pledged to plant for each car sold would offset only one year’s worth of carbon emissions, not the entire emissions over the lifetime of the vehicle, as the ads implied.

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Sqauwk! Go the liars. Can you believe what they tell you you’re eating?

Posted in Digital signage, food, Marketing, advertising, ethics, packaging, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , on February 11, 2011 by marketingheart

Here’s a challenge; how do you know your free range eggs are actually free range? Well, you just kinda accept what it says on the packaging, right?

Putting right aide the whole question of whether free range is necessarily better for your health (and some pesky Swedes have questioned the safety of said eggs having discovered that, if farmers aren’t extremely careful, bacterial infections like E. coli can run rampant through free-range chicken flocks), at least consumers need to be confident that an egg that calls itself free range really is free range.

In the UK, for example, you’d probably feel pretty confident since eggs are printed with decriptors: organic, cage-free, barn, or caged status, as well as their country of origin and Farm ID.

And to make sure you know what you’re eating, there’s a guide on the packaging

Crikey, that’s all a bit full-on, aren’t we bombarded with enough information already, do we really need all this data wherever we go? And doesn’t this impost make the eggs more expensive, after all it’s we who pay for that printing. Can’t we trust the organic egg farmers to do the right thing and all just relax a little?

Erm, nope. Oddly enough sometimes the same people that farm eggs like this (below) are also liars. Western Australian wholesalers C.I. & Co Pty Ltd, and Antonio Pisano and Anna Pisano have been found to have misled the public by labelling and selling cartons of eggs labelled ‘free range’ when a substantial proportion of the eggs were not free range….and it cost them $50,000 in fines (despite the maximum available fine of $220,000). Why did they lie in the first place? Cage eggs are still the nation’s biggest seller, but market share has slumped to 63.6 per cent. This compares with 75.2 per cent five years ago, and down from 68 per cent a year ago. By the end of the year, Woolworths will have slashed the number of cage egg brands it sells from 20 to 11, including dropping one of its own that makes up 5 per cent of sales. In his judgment Justice North found that: “the conduct involved a high level of dishonesty.  The conduct was also extremely difficult to detect because, once the eggs were placed in the cartons, it was impossible to determine whether they were free range or not.

The ACCC which persued the case said” “These proceedings should act as a warning to the Australian egg industry that the ACCC views egg substitution as a serious matter and will take strong enforcement action to stop similar conduct.”

Not strong enough however to impose UK standards of labelling. Which raises an interesting issue – what level of information is required, does a greater amount of information   result in more ethical practices or does it just force the liars to lie more, and who has the means to discover, investigate and prosecute offenders anyway.

Food labelling has been a topic of debate in Austraia for 20 years, and because big health, consumer, agricultural and FMCG lobbies all have major stakes in the issues and implications of possible regulations and because State regulation is inevitably required fo any change to effect, things move VERY slowly. (Here’s a  bit of classic government process and language published by a food labelling review committee).

Meanwhile at the coal face of the market nothing much changes: caveat emptor. Managing the accurate and complete labelling of foodstuffs is an industry in itself, and that’s to say nothing about non-food products. It’s a jungle out there, and if we ever thought we could leave such things to the honest and ethical practices of product marketers, LOOK OUT…

Back in 2006, a survey of 70 packaged products conducted for the NSW Food Authority was widely reported to have found that mandatory nutrition information that appears on all processed foods in Australia is often inaccurate and misleading. Even allowing for a 20 per cent margin of error on the specified amount, as many as 84 per cent of labels incorrectly stated the quantity of at least one component. Interestingly, the minute the survey results were published, the NSW government ran away at a million miles an hour, saying  that the survey was simply a pilot for a “wider national process on nutritional labelling to be conducted by Food Standards Australia“. On their website I can find no evidence of any such “wide process” however, Australian food labelling law and policy has indeed recently undergone a review, the  final report of which, called Labelling Logic. was presented to Government on January 2011 this year, a mere 5 years after the pilot.  The Australia and New Zealand Food Regulation Ministerial Council has suggested that a realistic timeframe to expect a response is December 2011. Meanwhile critics of the report are already lining up and, possibly losing patience with the process, in the meantime the Heart Foundation conducted its own research into Private Label food products

As Elizabeth Farrelly wrote in the Sydney Morning Herald “We’re used to corporates v the community. We know that developers, miners and bankers are not on ”our” side. But food is different. It’s intimate. And the thought that our food producers – our cheery-faced farmers and bakers – would happily experiment with our well-being is still alarming.”

So will we ever get adequate labelling or must we rely on faith and judicial controls – the chicken and egg story. Product labelling is an area which has got me riled and about which I’ll be adding a few posts.

It’s official: I am a grumpy bastard even upset by ice cream

Posted in food, Marketing, advertising, ethics, packaging, sustainability with tags on November 22, 2010 by marketingheart

I guess if i can get upset about ice cream, there’s no helping me.

But when I saw this new Streets product I was just aghast as the incredibly irresponsible use of resources.

streets magnum temptation

Surely to god we should be moving toward LESS packaging, not more. failed to make any comment of course. “In another first for Magnum, the new Temptation is packaged in a lavish, eye-catching jewellery box, which immediately conveys the premium nature of the treat inside. ” Actually a search of the web shows no critical comment whatsoever about the packaging..and plenty of Facebook fans. Clearly, being grump about such things is a lonely job!

I find the “add more expensive packaging to justify a higher premium” a rather cynical approach and one which flies in the face of sustainability. Pity, it’s a nice product and magnum is an innovative power product. If you want to know more go here.

Coffee-hounds, I will lead thee to redemption

Posted in food, Marketing, advertising, ethics, packaging, sustainability on August 2, 2010 by marketingheart

I’m happily ensconced in my inner-city suburb, the kind of area where we enlightened folk sip on lattes while figuring how to fix the world, right? No, not bloody right. I am sick of the use of disposable coffee cups. that cup that you use for 5 minutes will hang around for up to 5000 years. To state the obvious, your a three-cup-a-day habit will create a one thousand-cup mountain every year! What are you doing? Go get a re-usable keep-cup or take a mug to the coffee shop.
keep cup, reduce coffee cup waste
Some facts (from the US):
* When you purchase one cup of coffee (or tea) in a disposable container every day, you create about 23 lb of waste each year. -Ideal Bite
* About eighteen percent of garbage we produce is composed of disposable containers, of which hot beverage cups represent a large portion.
* Styrofoam cups are the worst culprits, as it never degrades. Americans throw away 25,000,000,000 Styrofoam cups every ear. Even 500 years from now, the foam coffee cup you used this morning will be sitting in a landfill somewhere. -The Recycler’s Handbook
* Starbucks just started rolling out new cups that contain 10% recycled paper. (Whoopee). This is not uncommon, recycled paper being a problem in food packaging because of contaminants.
* Over 6.5 million trees were cut down to make 16 billion paper cups used by US consumers in 2006, using 4 billion gallons of water and resulting in 253 million pounds of waste “Paper Cups = Unsustainable Consumption” Feb 6, 2008.
* Paper cups may consume more non-renewable resources than cups made of polystyrene foam# Chris T. Hendrickson, Lester B. Lave, and H. Scott Matthews (2006). Environmental Life Cycle Assessment of Goods and Services: An Input-output Approach. Resources for the Future. p. 5

A city of Toronto audit found fast-food waste was in 77% of trash bins and in 260 of the 480 bins. Toronto’s recycling plan allows people to include paper-based takeout coffee cups in curbside recycling because they can be composted. However due to the sheer number of cups the recycling plants simply cannot process cup waste

Which coffee chain is going to take advantage of the HUGE GLARING OPPORTUNITY to lead by actively pushing a re-usable alternative?