Why I didn’t like the Absolut Kindness campaign

03May09

Call me a humbug or a killjoy, but I have to say that my reaction to the Absolut Kindness campaign (A week,  where kind gestures earn free stuff for people giving them) was one of deep cynicism. This reaction has nothing to do with the product, which I have no problem ordering, or the people running the online campaign. It has more to do with the timing, tone and legitimacy of the “kindness as currency” tagline, leading to a messy self-congratulatory mush.

absolut kindness

First off is the advert that’s being aired in cinemas: A whistlestop trip around the globe showing how lovely the world would be if only we could hug and kiss each other instead of paying for things – a sort of kindness economy if you will. Trouble is, that in a time of global recession, suggesting that everything would be better if only money didn’t exist is twee, naive and unreasonable as a central concept of a marketing campaign. What’s more, it’s not a concept that Absolut (owned by Pernod Ricard, a company making annual sales of €6.6bn) subscribes to. Absolut sold around 100m litres of Vodka in 2008, I’m sure that they’d prefer £16 for a bottle rather than a kiss on the cheek (not to mention their shareholders).

Secondly, the week long series of events and giveaways, where people could exchange acts of kindness for goods (fruit, coffee, cocktails – although I’ve seen many a girl get free drinks in exchange for their number or a discreet snog). The website proudly reported that “Early morning coffee seekers who were extra kind to the barista staff were rewarded with lattes, cappuccinos and a few healthy teas. Smiles, winks, loud ‘good mornings’, lots of compliments and laughs demonstrate just how kind Londoners can be.” Yes we can be kind, if we’re getting something for free.

What Absolut don’t tell us is how the vendors were coaxed into taking part. For example, the Berwick St market traders aren’t operating on Pernod Ricard finances. My hunch is that they were sponsored by Absolut to get involved – meaning that the pashminas and grapefruits were paid for in the first place – in essence making the “acts of  kindness” superfluous to the entire economy of it all – or, by Absolut’s logic meaning they’ve been paid for twice… odd.

Finally, visitors to the website are asked the question: In an Absolut World you could acquire whatever you desire as long as you’re prepared to pay in kindness. That puts a slight spin on value. So, how would you measure value? What would you buy and how would you pay for it? 

Unfortunately, most visitors didn’t really get the question and came up with gems such as:

A FEW KIND WORDS
Mina says:
April 17, 2009 at 5:13 pm
I wish I can live in a world of kindness. No money, no worries , no robbery just kindness. What a wonderful life…..
Esther Poyer says:
April 18, 2009 at 5:01 pm
If kindness was currency I would grow a field of red rose bushes; place a long stemmed rose on the graves of one hundred child soldiers killed in the Mozambique war. So they will sleep on in perfect beauty, in memory and that we are reminded that a baby’s breath is the sweetest scent.
Tony says:
April 18, 2009 at 5:15 pm
I would rebuild New Orleans and retire on a farm.
Willem says:
April 18, 2009 at 6:38 pm
I would go to a nice pub and pay for rounds in exchange for funny stories.
Laura says:
April 20, 2009 at 1:20 pm
I would rescue all the mistreated animals in the world, take care of them, and then make sure each one had a happy home to go to.
Leon says:
April 21, 2009 at 2:10 pm
I’d grow loads of vegetables and plants and pass them on. Makes the world greener, shares stuff around and sorts out the CO2 problem. Done!
Polly says:
April 21, 2009 at 2:27 pm
If kindness were currency I’d pay for everyone around the world to have expensive cancer drugs that they can’t currently get. I’d do anything for that. I’d even be kind to spiders by giving them flies to eat, and not screaming loudly when I see them and not dusting away their webs.
Claire says:
April 21, 2009 at 3:35 pm
I would buy enough chocolate for everyone and distribute it when it was needed
  • I wish I can live in a world of kindness. No money, no worries , no robbery just kindness. What a wonderful life…..  (Obviously not read Hobbes’ Leviathan)
  • I would rebuild New Orleans and retire on a farm. (You’ll have to be REALLY kind to rebuild a city)
  • If kindness were currency I’d pay for everyone around the world to have expensive cancer drugs that they can’t currently get. I’d do anything for that. I’d even be kind to spiders by giving them flies to eat, and not screaming loudly when I see them and not dusting away their webs. (Sure, let’s ask drugs companies to give away years of R&D in exchange for Polly being nice to spiders, “Hold please….” )
  • I would buy enough chocolate for everyone and distribute it when it was needed (You’d buy chocolate? with money? isn’t that against the rules?)

Well thanks Absolut for providing us with some amusement, but please stick to marketing campaigns that don’t patronise us or try to turn us into hippies – it doesn’t suit you.

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