Sustainability review platform Wherefrom has reacted to a slew of ads by Mercedes-Benz meant to promote Mercedes-EQ, its line of electric cars. Wherefrom's called out the automotive maker for greenwashing after Mercedes-Benz associated its brand with the beauty of nature in its ads.
The original ads showed images of nature from a rose to the veins of leaves, a honeycomb, and lightning. A circle is placed in the middle of the ads to showcase the Mercedes-Benz symbol. At the bottom of each ad reads "Nothing or Nature. Climate change. It's already here. Mercedes EQ."
Together with its agency 10 Days London, Wherefrom rebutted the campaign by showing the reality of climate change and the impact that Mercedes-Benz has on it. The beautiful images of nature were replaced with drought, oil spills, fires and icebergs breaking off.
"Hey Mercedes-Benz! As gorgeous as these viral ads are, we've got other ideas. So 10 Days London and Wherefrom UK have taken them for a spin and given them a more realistic makeover. You know, without the greenwashing," Wherefrom said in an Instagram post. "Don't worry, we won't mention you being sued for 'not taking enough action to tackle your contribution to climate change' part," it added.
Meanwhile, Mercedes-Benz's ads seem to have garnered plenty of positive response. According to Jolyon White, founder and creative director at 10 Days London, many have "ignorantly been sharing" the ads and leaving comments praising it as a "clever", "wonderful", and "simply brilliant" campaign.
He explained on LinkedIn that this is "the most shameless example of greenwashing it has ever seen". "It is using the beauty of nature to appear green when the truth is Mercedes are being sued for not taking enough action to tackle their contribution to climate change," he said. As such, 10 Days London and Wherefrom could not sit and watch as "people mindlessly promote greenwashing" and decided to give the ads a realistic makeover. MARKETING-INTERACTIVE has reached out to Mercedes-Benz for comment.
Last year, Mercedes-Benz and BMW were sued by German activists for refusing to tighten carbon emissions goals. According to Reuters, this is the first time German citizens have banded together to sue private companies for negatively impacting climate change.
Greenwashing is an issue that brands face these days and with regulators, activists, NGOs, investors, and customers scrutinising companies' communications, it will definitely reflect badly on a company's brand image and reputation should they be called out for it. According to Forrester, greenwashing is just the tip of the sustainability communications iceberg. Beyond that, sustainability issues will also take up more of marketers' working headspace. As they respond to values-driven customers, firms that embrace responsible marketing will get a lasting competitive advantage.
At the same time, Milieu Insight's survey in Southeast Asia found that consumers nowadays don't blindly trust sustainability claims. In the beauty space, for example, 67% of the 1,000 respondents will research more about the claims on their beauty products packaging to know if they are really sustainable/clean/ethical, especially those from the Philippines (83%) and Malaysia (72%).
Meanwhile, 42% of consumers in Indonesia and 41% of consumers in Singapore said they trust the claims on their beauty products' packaging to know if it's sustainable/clean/ethical, while only 28% in Malaysia said the same.
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