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Clover Leaf Seriously Misses the Boat With Sustainability Message

June 30th, 2011 · 2 Comments

I generally don’t like to just up and crap all over a piece of well-intentioned creative, but in this case I have to make an exception. Pre-apologies to any hard-working agency or client-side types I may offend.

Let’s begin by looking at Clover Leaf’s strategy here. Presumably, someone at head office has been getting heat from articles like this one which point out that Clover Leaf came in 11th out of 14 major Canadian canned tuna brands ranked in sustainability. So, they do what many industries do in cases like this; band together and create a business-led partnership under which they can publicize their progress as they attempt to maintain their current profit model with as little interruption as possible. For Clover Leaf, this is called the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation. I’ll leave it up to you to fish around and see for yourself if the ISSF is more than a well-intentioned delay tactic. Purely as a strategy though, an ad that describes the work this foundation does, and Clover Leaf’s connection to it would be a good thing. Unfortunately, this ad, in 350 words or so, does very little of that.

Design-wise, the ad is clean enough, though the un-captioned photos are completely meaningless (What kind of tuna is that? Who are those people? Why should I care?)

Regarding the content itself, the headline sets the tone. “Good for you. Good for us all.” Really? OK, what’s ‘good for us all’ in the copy? “Clover Leaf is committed to leading the way in preserving the world’s aquatic resources.” Over-promise much? To truly preserve aquatic resources, Clover Leaf should lead the way by shutting their doors. STOP FISHING! But of course, their whole business is built on taking fish stocks and feeding them to us in little cans. So that probably won’t happen.

Don’t get me wrong, I like eating tuna. Right from the can, even. But I cannot swallow another fluffy line that promises something the company cannot possibly deliver.

Try “Clover Leaf is working hard to evolve our fishing practices to reduce our impact on fish stocks around the world.” You can have that one for free.

Here’s another gem: “We are committed through our leadership and our actions to the effective management of ocean resources for generations to come.” What actions? There is no mention of any specific change in fishing practice or policy in the whole ad. And now they want to protect not only fish, but ‘all ocean resources’? Gee thanks. I can sleep now.

And to finish off, “‘Quality and taste every time’ is more than our mantra – it’s our commitment to you and future generations.” Did these guys just step out of the 70’s? Someone should tell them that today’s consumers want facts, not meaningless taglines.

Try building on 100 years of trust. Tell folks about the ISSF’s latest resolution to support the full closure of the purse seine fishery to reduce mortality of Big Eye Tuna. Heck, maybe explain that there actually ARE different species of tuna, some more threatened than others… ANYTHING!  Argh. I could be here all night trying to rewrite this pile of fluff.

The end result is an ad that says nothing, but tries to leave consumers with the impression that Clover Leaf is taking sustainability seriously. That is the very definition of greenwash, and it taints all the hard work of the brands and marketers who are working to make a genuine difference.

Clover Leaf, I may be black-listed forever from working on your brand because of this article. But if you continue to treat sustainability like just another marketing buzzword, that’s fine with me.

Want to do it right? Drop me a line.

P.S. If anyone out there wants to taste a real can of sustainable tuna, check out these guys.

Tags: Green Creative · Green in Europe · Green Points of View · Sustainable Lifestyle

2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Trevor Simpson // Jun 30, 2011 at 11:57 am

    So Lorne, I decided I had to read the ad – I never imagined I would voluntarily read a Cloverleaf ad. I think you are a tad unfair in your criticism. Basically their ad does contain one fact as support for their claim we are good for you – their membershipof the ISSF. Now I assume that is a good thing although I know little about ISSF Now you don’t argue that point, you just tell me to do my own homework. However by not arguing that issue you leave me in doubt. IN addition you say “as they attempt to maintain their current profit model with as little interruption as possible.” But you give me no support for that statement either. De facto aren’t you doing the same thing as them – making statements without detail? I rely on Green Briefs to do my enviro thinking for me, not give me a headache in trying to comprehend what ISSF is or is not doing. cheers

  • 2 admin // Jun 30, 2011 at 12:06 pm

    Fair enough. One fact. I stand corrected. As for being fair, I don’t think that promise exists anywhere in the Green Briefs masthead! I will admit that my green dander did get up a bit as I wrote the piece… but I’m glad I did that, as it brings out other points of view.
    Thanks for the comment, Trevor, and keep up the green thinking! (P.S. Sorry about the headache. But that’s the price we have to pay to get to the bottom of this stuff. )

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