The Future of Schools

In market-totalitarian America, everything must serve the overclass, and increasingly so. Hence, the latest marketing platform? The institution known as school. Per Ad Age:

Kleenex (an ecocidal marketing/waste endeavor of Kimberly-Clark Worldwide, Inc.) had approached Studiocom with an interesting challenge: create a back-to-school push promoting the brand’s “stronger, more absorbent tissues.” Problem was, “No one cares when a brand says something like this,” said Creative Director Todd Slutzky. “It’s basically a meaningless statement like ‘new and improved.'” So the Studiocom team decided to put the brand to the ultimate test–in the hands of some science savvy kids. The agency went out to the top 100 science elementary and middle schools around the U.S. and asked them to come up with creative ideas to test the strength of the new tissues.

Ten of the schools took part, each backed by $5,000 funding from Kleenex. The Studiocom team then captured the most creative and compelling “Xperiments” on film.

Here’s the smarm and teacher prostitution that “positions” this appalling trick:

Gosh, I wonder how Kleenexes would do in a strength test against the cloth handkerchieves they are designed to obscure. Science anybody?

Vanity and Ecocide in Kleenex Marketing

Recall that, in The Sponsored Life, the great advertising critic Leslie Savan once observed that:

If you want to understand what an ad’s really up to, following the flattery is as useful as following the money.

Recall also that we here at TCT have previously reported on the Kimberly-Clark Corporation’s continuing effort to use marketing to reap profits from substituting tree fiber for handkerchiefs, as well as corporate marketers’ frequent reliance on vanity as a sales device.

Well, guess what, kids?  Yep:

box

Kleenex has now found a way to marry its ecocidal efforts to our capacity for vanity.

If only Earth could sneeze…

Behind the Toilet Paper: Can You Spot the True Asshole?

In a February 25 New York Times piece titled “Mr. Whipple Left It Out: Soft Is Rough on Forests,” Leslie Kaufman reported that making toilet paper feel puffy and textured is now a major use of the Earth’s remaining old-growth forests.

Kaufman, of course, reports a corporate paper executive’s recitation of the industry’s standard public story of how and why this appalling waste happens:

Customers “demand soft and comfortable,” said James Malone, a spokesman for Georgia Pacific, the maker of Quilted Northern.

That, of course, is a howling lie.  The one and only reason for the advent of puffed-up toilet paper is the normal corporate capitalist sales imperative, not any kind of spontaneous clamoring from us ordinary ass-wipers.

Here is the real scoop, from a classic 1998 Wall Street Journal report titled “The Tricky Business of Rolling Out a New Toilet Paper,” by the excellent Tara Parker-Pope:

This [purportedly fancy toilet paper] is Kimberly-Clark’s biggest push ever in the $3.5 billion-a-year U.S. toiletpaper business, where it is a relative newcomer. Its original Kleenex toilet-tissue brand struggled after its introduction in 1990.  The company merged with Scott Paper, maker of the Scott and Cottonelle brands, in 1995 and created Kleenex Cottonelle, which helped Kimberly-Clark gain a 23% share of the market. But it trails rival Procter & Gamble’s Charmin, which has 30%. Among premium tissues, Kleenex Cottonelle still ranks a distant fourth behind Charmin, Fort James’s Northern and Georgia-Pacific’s Angel Soft.  Overall, bath-tissue sales are flat and premium brands are losing share to economy-priced tissue.

In other words, the real spur to all this environment-raping TeePee was stagnant corporate profits, not popular demand. Left to their own devices, people gravitate toward “economy-priced tissue.”

This, of course, meant that people simply could not be left to their own devices, them and nature be damned.

Pope conveyed the outlines of the usual consequent marketing procedures, which have since yielded the true course of events:

Kimberly-Clark hosted focus groups to talk to consumers about toilet paper, and asked them to compare leading brands with the new Kleenex Cottonelle textured tissue. They discovered that even though tissue advertising doesn’t talk about how well a toilet paper wipes, that is what customers are thinking about.

In the meantime, the company will launch a new, softer version of Kleenex Cottonelle in the rest of the U.S. Those more-traditional ads show a bubble drifting onto folds of toilet tissue. But the product package includes the “clean, fresh feeling” promise, in an effort to prime consumers for the eventual appearance of the textured tissue nationwide.

In similar fashion, the alleged proof of the alleged product benefit comes after, not before, claims about it are implanted into “the consumer”:

“If we have news that’s important for a consumer, then we can find a way to tastefully communicate it,” says Tom Falk, group president of Kimberly-Clark’s North American tissue, pulp and paper business.

The advertising solution is an anthropomorphic roll of toilet paper with a heavy British accent (the voice of London actress Louise Mercer from the old NBC sitcom “Dear John”). “I’m new Kleenex-Cottonelle toilet paper, and I understand you have a cleaning position available,” the tissue says. “I have a unique, rippled texture designed to leave you feeling clean and fresh. I’d love to show you what I can do.”

In another ad, the tissue brags that consumers prefer it to the leading brand. “Looks like all my bottom-line thinking is paying off,” the tissue says. For now, the ads will claim only that consumers say the new tissue leaves them feeling cleaner than other brands, but Kimberly-Clark is “working on a way to objectively measure cleaning better,” says Mr. Willetts. “There’s no method right now.”

Oh, there’s a method alright. George Orwell is spinning in his grave…

Kleenex Expressions & the Depravity of Capitalism

The United States lacks national health insurance, universally good and equal schools, a sustainable transportation system, and a government that responds to popular wishes.

The whole human race suffers from mass poverty, illiteracy, looming unaddressed environmental and energy crises, a severe paucity of trans-national democracy, and still-proliferating weapons of mass destruction.

Meanwhile, how are the good folks over at Kimberly-Clark, one of the original U.S. mega-corporations, directing their firm’s entrepreneurial spirit? How are they allocating the reinvested portion, whatever it is, of the $16.7 billion in book profits K-C reaped in 2006?

Here you go:

another capitalist technological breakthrough! It’s “Kleenex Expressions” folks!

This, you see, is the latest manifestation of K-C’s ongoing efforts to do — what? To “leverage the strong emotional bond forged by K-C’s trusted brands,” in order to “transform insights and technologies into innovative, proprietary and profitable solutions that deliver superior returns to our shareholders.”

Now, you might think the scandal here is old and confined to the shocking waste of human and natural resources — as Helen Caldicott says, “Kleenex” (long a synonym for all paper mose-blowing tissues) is founded on the K-C-cultivated false claim that cloth handerkerchiefs are unsanitary — inherent in corporate capitalists’ long-running efforts to peddle egregious junk like paper tissues.

But that’s only part of the story. The rest of it has to do with the criminal wastefulness that routinely occurs via the BBM sub-discipline of “product management.”

As I explain in The Consumer Trap book, product management is the art and science of viewing the end commodity itself as a bundle of marketing stimuli, as a collection of spurs to profitable “consumer” behavior. In PM, first you run a focus group to discover the weaknesses and irrationalities that exist in the “target” audience of potential buyers. Then, you build a production line to manufacture objects to convert those weaknesses and irrationalities into corporate cash flows. The ecological and financial costs of the process to the end-users and the human race? Ought these to trouble us, since they increase our profits?”

So, here’s how Advertising Age reports on K-C’s latest PM endeavors:

Tony Palmer, CMO of Kimberly-Clark, at Ad Age’s Media Mavens event last week, answering a question about what he would like for Christmas. Mr. Palmer made it clear that he thinks marketers need agency partners that let ideas and consumer insights drive channel choices — rather than their existing departmental structures and revenue requirements. And he doesn’t think the industry is there yet, not by a long shot.

Mr. Palmer might sound like one of those change-agent types, but in the style of a good old-fashioned marketing man, he sat on stage and later wandered the halls of the Hilton proudly brandishing a box of his company’s Kleenex.

Or perhaps I should say an oval of Kleenex, for these were K-C’s “Expressions” in their tony, trademarked, almond-shaped container.

The oval might not sound like a big wow, but it was a significant innovation in the category. The move was designed to attract younger, design-conscious consumers who didn’t like having the old rectangular box sitting on their Kohler commodes. Reports suggest the boxes have been best-sellers and spurred some growth in a stagnant category.

But, as Mr. Palmer pointed out, they didn’t happen without ripping up existing processes, changing people’s job functions and investing heavily in a whole new production line. (Ad Age, December 3, 2007)

Beyond funding overclass financial speculation, offshore bank accounts, and third homes, this is how corporate capitalism now works. It picks the subconsciouses of deluded hipsters to “create” next-generation iterations of products that simply should not (and, under economic democracy would not) exist.  Such lovely stuff is what new factories get built for.  Not for feeding or housing the poor.  Not for restoring and modernizing the railroads.  Not for making parts for new schools.  Yes for “Hip Chick” Kleenexes.

Caligula and Nero were amateurs compared to this system’s murderous decrepitude.