First we take the Poppy – then we take Berlin


A few hours ago I wrote a blog criticising Nivea for appropriating the ANZAC Poppy symbol for their own marketing message on the FB page.  Their (Singapore?) office withdrew the posting following some well deserved public protest but I notice in the Poppy’s place is the image above: Their message – “Happy Earth Day!”

Well I guess it is 67 years or so since Coca-Cola appropriated Christmas (and rebranded Santa in the now familiar red suit – it used to be brown) and I guess it is 40 years or more since Coke hijacked world peace by Teaching The Whole World to Sing – so perhaps I shouldn’t be shocked any more when a hand creme company concertedly rebrands two things I value (in my own way as a citizen) dearly. First they took the Poppy, now they take…the entire planet!

To explain that this might be wrong would be to engage, what I suspect are young market-economy indoctrinated marketers who have never attended any ethics courses along their academic pathway. Neither did I for that matter but in my lifetime I’ve sensed a deep erosion – a melting of once-permanent ethical polar ice – around what is, and what is not commercial property.

A good starting point for marketers is the book by Harvard ethics lecturer Michael Sandel. In it he cites often outrageous transgressions of public and personal freedoms and beliefs by the free market – then he discusses not only why there is some moral repugnance around these facets of commercial life, but why this marketing-society-led creep is occurring.

His message – and Nivea’s team could do well by reading it – is that brands are not people, and that when brands appropriate or subvert human values, then they cheapen those values and erode the things we hold dear.

In a few days I’ll post a review of the book so that other marketers can avoid the pathway that Nivea seem so keen to take.  I hear the signage rights to the Universe are up for grabs.  



2 thoughts on “First we take the Poppy – then we take Berlin

    1. Yes, good point: I believe you are, strictly speaking, right. I was basing my comment on both the myth, (for sure) but also my grandfather’s collection of National Geographics which (from 1938 onward – when his subscription began) featured the Coke Santa dressed pretty much as he is today – the big jovial face, the red outfit lined with white fur, the giant belt buckle, the abundant white beard etc. I’d contend that Coke may not have given him the red coat (in Finland and Russia, Saint Nicholas definitely wore a brown coat) but they definitely helped give him his current image, and they certainly use that image without fail, each jolly Yuletide season. Thanks for making me draw back my Claus. I stand corrected.

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