P&G’s latest Millennial marketing effort misses the mark
There’s a lot for a Millennial to be worried about in 2019. Floods and wildfires remind us on a daily basis that the climate is in peril, and reports tell us that we have just 11 short years to address climate change before it’s too late. We’re hearing more and more about how the world’s species are dying off at unprecedented rates, many without us even knowing about them before they’re gone.
But having to change the toilet paper roll? That’s probably not keeping us up at night.
And yet, with its new Charmin “Forever Roll,” consumer packaged goods giant Procter & Gamble is trying to tell Millennials they’re looking out for us, all the while exacerbating the problems that make us fear for the future. The very toilet paper Charmin is coiling into its giant Forever Roll is coming at the expense of forests, species, and our climate. As NRDC’s recent report noted, Charmin toilet paper contains zero recycled content and comes from such critically important forests like the Canadian boreal.
The folks at Charmin seem to be doubling down on marketing to Millennials, and news outlets like Buzzfeed are buying right into their efforts, giving them what boils down to free promotion with only a passing mention of the impacts the Forever Roll has on forests and the climate. The day after a Buzzfeed op-ed bemoaned the absence of climate change on the Democratic debate stage, Buzzfeed itself hailed the Forever Roll as a triumph in American innovation while glossing over the need for companies like P&G to instead lead on creating products that don’t exacerbate the climate crisis.
P&G should invest in research and development to create a product that is good for both the planet and P&G’s bottom line. Charmin’s current attempt at cultural relevancy falls pretty flat when you consider how many Millennials are demanding leadership on climate change and the environment from politicians and corporations alike.
P&G itself knows this. In fact, its Chief Brand Officer, Marc Pritchard, announced at the Sustainable Brands conference in Detroit in early June a new initiative called “Brands for Good” to get more companies to lead in the realm of sustainability. At the conference, Pritchard spoke passionately about the role major companies can and should play in providing products to consumers that don’t come at the cost of the planet.
We agree with Marc Pritchard. We need transformative leadership and innovation from P&G. We need companies to create products that fully reckon with their impact on the planet head-on and find ways for us to engage more sustainably with our natural world. We need to break the wheel of destroying the world’s resources for products that are used for a few seconds then flushed away.
Here is our message for Charmin: if you want to win over Millennials and stand for the solutions our world really needs, be a real leader with your toilet paper. Stop sourcing from critical intact forests. Reduce your virgin forest fiber and use recycled content instead, and for any virgin fiber you do use, source only from fully FSC-certified areas. We are counting on you because we need our planet to last forever, not our toilet paper rolls.