Why Greenpeace is smart to target Lego to get at Shell

Wow, over 5 million views already for Greenpeace’s Youtube video, which spoofs the Lego brand to slam its partnership with Shell! I have read some critiques of this action, like this French article by Nicolas Vanderbiest, which discount the campaign in its early stages saying it chose the wrong target (a much loved brand) and that it would not go very far.

Personally, I think Greenpeace was (as always) very strategic about its choice of target and, for those who are wondering, I’ll explain below exactly why I think Lego is the perfect way to get at Shell and the whole issue of drilling for oil in the Arctic, while generating massive amounts of social media buzz.

But first, for those who haven’t yet seen the video, enjoy!

So why is Greenpeace going after Lego to make a stand against Shell’s arctic oil exploration plans? In a word, reputation. Corporate reputation has become a major pressure point for consumers and activists seeking to change business practices. Business literature now attributes millions of dollars for each drop or increase in reputation points, especially for publicly traded companies.

But reputation campaigns need to be carefully crafted. For this avenue to work, the ‘story’ behind the reputation attack must be compelling and the reputation damage itself must affect the target company’s core business activities or ability to pursue them.

Consider Shell, the ultimate target of Greenpeace’s campaign. Is the story of environmental activists decrying the activities of a big oil company very compelling (yawn)? Not anymore, I would say. And therefore, Greenpeace could not hope to get much traction out of this if Shell were attacked directly. Second, Shell is quite used to being the target of environmental activism and, by now, campaigns directed against them must be par for the course and not very threatening.

The Lego brand, however, is a smart target for many reasons. First, they are a well-known and well-loved global brand that is at the zenith of its popularity, especially following its recent hit movies. Greenpeace cleverly riffs off the familiar Lego iconography, using classic culture jamming techniques, to create online memes, which travel very well through social networks.

On top of Lego’s notoriety, the news of Greenpeace targeting Lego creates an instant ‘say, what?’ effect, which renders the story compelling and newsworthy. Finally, Lego can be expected to care a great deal what people think of its brand, being a business to consumer company, and so the Greenpeace campaign was sure to be registered as a 5 alarm fire at corporate headquarters.

Will Lego give in and drop Shell as a corporate partner? Who cares. By staging this showdown with the much loved Lego brand, Greenpeace has drawn the attention of millions to Shell’s drilling in the arctic and the feared consequences of such, something that could never have been achieved had it been framed as a Greenpeace VS. Shell campaign. Furthermore, it has made it clear that those who collaborate and endorse fossil fuel companies are potential targets themselves, which will make other consumer brands think twice about partnering with oil and gas giants.

UPDATED AS OF OCT 9TH – VICTORY FOR GREENPEACE

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One thought on “Why Greenpeace is smart to target Lego to get at Shell

  1. Pingback: Social Disruptions Digest: Coffee and oil sands don’t mix! | social disruptions

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