Somewhere in a James Bond style villain’s lair, a group of evil marketing executives convene to hatch a most evil plan.
The head evil marketing executive poses the question to the rest of the evil marketing executive board: ‘How can we get kids completely hooked on our brands at a really young age?’
Many evil ideas are thrown around the boardroom, each with the sole aim of exposing infants to corporate brands at an early age.
‘What about advertising our brands between Children’s TV shows?’ one evil executive suggests.
‘That’s been done a million times. But what about subliminal TV advertising?’ another responds ‘Product placement in Paw Patrol or Peppa Pig?’.
‘Not bad, but we need more’ instructs the head evil marketing executive.
Finally one of the evil executives fist-pumps the air and proclaims ‘I’ve got it!’
‘I have an evil plan that will get children as young as two hooked on our household brands, and… get this… it will create tons and tons of plastic junk too!’
‘What is the plan?’ – All of the evil marketing executives lean forward over the board table with evil interest.
‘We will create mini plastic versions of all the junk packaging our consumers already struggle to deal with, recycle or dispose of properly. Then, we’ll market them as ‘collectables’ to parents, who’ll be desperate to complete the collection of utterly pointless waste for their kids.’
Their eyes light up. ‘Brilliant!’ they all agree, as they imagine the huge seven-figure bonuses they will receive whilst congratulating each other.
‘It’s win-win. They’ll have to spend money in store to collect the mini-junk-tat. Their kids will be subconsciously hooked on our brands from before they can speak, and they will even encourage their parents to shop in M&S. And, as a bonus we will have created tons of plastic junk that will last for thousands of years.’
One evil executive, quiet until now, puts up his hand and speaks ‘But surely no parent will be dumb enough to fall for this? The public want’s less plastic, not more.’
*All other executives laugh out loud and scoff to each other.
The Story of M&S Little Shop
I can’t actually vouch for the accuracy of the above account, but I also struggle to imagine the decision being taken any other way, such is the absurdity and utterly cynical nature of the idea.
During another year of record breaking global temperatures, melting sea ice, plastic pollution on a mind-boggling scale, and recycling waste scandals, a supermarket giant thinks that creating branded mini plastic junk for kids, no doubt shipped from around the globe, is a good idea.
You’d wonder who was dumb enough to collect mini versions of single-use plastic waste that we throw away on a daily basis for their kids? But, incredibly, and depressingly, such has been the demand for the ‘collectables’ first introduced by Coles supermarket in Australia, people have literally been queuing for them.
Thankfully there are still some sane people in the World who have pointed out the obvious flaw in Coles’ strategy. Thousands of Australians have called for the mini-collectables to be banned in an online petition. They point out the irony that whilst the supermarket has finally taken the step to ban single use bags, they seem to be happy to introduce replica junk ‘toys’ that have a limited life. They also highlight that the toys are cheaply made, easily break and are just going to end up in landfill.
Thank goodness, with public pressure, all this madness will come to an end soon.
But, just when you thought the world couldn’t get even more stupid, up steps Marks & Spencer, or M&S, with their own ‘Little Shop’ in the UK.
Hooray! Now British kids can collect mini plastic packaging all for themselves!
It’s not a marketing ploy aimed at four-year-olds, it’s educational…
But don’t worry, M&S have pre-empted the criticism and cover all of the bases on their website. ‘Brand awareness’ for four year olds isn’t even mentioned once. It’s all about educating your little princes and princesses ‘to learn a little bit about M&S food’.
They’ve got the recycling patter down too, pointing out on their website that the ‘toys’ have been designed to last using durable materials (that’s last-forever plastic to you and me), they’re not currently widely recyclable in the home’.
So instead M&S ‘encourage you to pass them to family or friends’ when the child has finished with them. You can also take them into the M&S food information desk so they can by ‘reused or recycled’ into children’s playground equipment when Little Shop has ended.
This is recycling at it’s best. It’s a good job that only nine per cent of plastic is recycled anyway, so what’s a few million more mini versions of M&S packaging?
Stores continue to hand out free plastic tat to their customers
In a world where plastic is choking the land and oceans (particularly in the developing countries we’re shipping all of our waste to), shouldn’t our big supermarkets be taking the lead in reducing unnecessary packaging?
Friends of the Earth campaigner Julian Kirby said: “We’re not going to end the scourge of plastic pollution if stores continue to hand out free plastic tat to their customers.
“The public are calling for drastic action on pointless plastic – but firms aren’t listening.
“MPs from all parties are supporting a new law to phase out all but the most essential plastic. The next Prime Minister must give it his backing too.”
Sadly, the Internet is awash with advertorial style content marketing articles promoting M&S little shop. Shamefully, some leading online titles have been promoting the ‘toys’.
Influencer Kate Starkey was offered £100 to share three posts of the M&S toys with her 11,000 Instagram followers but refused to participate.
She said: “Brands need to help consumers make the right decisions not create unnecessary plastic rubbish that will inevitably pollute the environment.”
Other online publications and influencers haven’t been so discerning.
Thankfully it isn’t only me who thinks that creating empty branded plastic packaging for children to ‘collect’ is a perverse course of action when others are working so hard to reduce plastic pollution for our children and future generations.
M&S, we expected more from you.