By Marco Passoni
Climate change and sustainability are huge topics for brands today – and so they should be. These are topics and problems which we all know are a big issue in the world and ones which leading brands and celebrities are taking much-needed leadership positions on. So, I have a question: How did Kim Kardashian and SKIMS get it so wrong with their latest advert?
Make no mistake, I fully reject suggestions of humour or raising an important issue. This SKIMS campaign looks to me like profiteering and using climate change like it is a new colour – nothing more than a trend to ride and use to sell product.
If you have not seen it, the advert I am talking about is for Kim Kardashian’s new ‘nipple bra’ and features her talking about the fact that Earth is getting hotter and ice sheets are shrinking. With incredible under-statement, she says she is not a scientist, but has released the bra so everyone can always look cold. Finally, she states: “Unlike the icebergs, these aren’t going anywhere.”
This is taking the same approach to climate change as many brands did with the Barbie Movie earlier this year: tying your product to something that consumers are talking about and want to engage with. But while the Barbie collaborations were worked out and overseen by the film’s makers, no one is legislating what is ok when it comes to sustainability, and the SKIMS campaign is the worst example of a shameless free-for-all that I have seen. Using climate change as a marketing tool is a cheap tactic and it is a move that should have never been made. Maybe it is time for real legislation on this topic.
I have seen talk that Kardashian and SKIMS are giving 10% of profits from the sales as a one-off donation to a climate charity. For me, in some ways, that makes it worse. It means this is not a misjudged joke, it is active, shameless profiteering, using the climate crisis to generate buzz online – and there is no doubt that has been successful, I am here writing about it more than a week later. But if we do not tell brands this is not acceptable then this will continue.
Using climate change as a marketing tool is a cheap tactic and it is a move that should have never been made. Maybe it is time for real legislation on this topic
For me, the 10% donation takes this from stupidity to callous greenwashing and paying shameless lip service to a serious cause. We live in a world where some brands are overhauling their offer to create a more sustainable business and Patagonia, for example, has been turned from a profit company into an organisation which raises money for good causes. Greenwashing has no place in this market.
If Kim Kardashian was doing something real to help fight the climate crisis, and using her platform for an actual purpose, then this campaign would make sense. As it is, SKIMS could donate profits without seeming to mock the climate crisis. Instead, the brand and its star decided to belittle climate change to create buzz and sell products – and that is cheap.
Brands and celebrities must do better. Shoppers are already demanding better from the companies they support and patronise. But if Kim Kardashian and SKIMS can get it this wrong then it is clear that there is still a lot of learning to do.