Tide “Loads of Hope” Campaign Analysis
On August 29th, 2005, Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans with devastation. Claiming over a thousand lives and causing massive destruction, Katrina has been called “one of the deadliest hurricanes ever to hit the United States” (Hurricane Katrina: Facts, Damage and Aftermath). After weakening, the storm eventually moved into Mississippi, showing the state far more mercy than it had shown Louisiana. In the wake of the aftermath, many in New Orleans were left facing incredible loss-death and injury of friends and loved ones, damage to property, and even destruction of homes entirely. In this time, Tide took action with a “Loads of Hope” event, funded by their context-relevant campaign . Claiming that “like clothes, hope comes in all sizes”, Tide provided a mobile laundromat for those in need after Katrina, consisting of 32 energy-efficient washers and dryers capable of doing over 300 loads of laundry per day, as well as workers and volunteers that would sort, wash, dry, fold, and package Katrina’s victim’s clothing. But Tide’s contribution to charity doesn’t end there; Tide has also provided mobile “Loads of Hope” laundromats and products for victims of the wildfires in San Diego, CA in 2008, Hurricane Gustav in Baton Rouge, LA in 2008, and Hurricane Sandy in NY and NJ in 2012, as well as those affected by many other natural disasters. In order to provide this help, though, Tide relies on the profits from their customers of “Loads of Hope” products, which are marketed through a carefully constructed, cause-related campaign.
In “Cosmopolitan Caring: Globalization, Charity and the Activist Consumer”, Littler discusses cause-related marketing and the consequences that rise out of it. It is a practice that seems to defy the very goal it sets out to achieve. “First, causes are selected in terms of how they will provide added value to the brand “ (Littler 31). This means that even organizations that provide an incredible amount of aid will not be considered if they are not in public interest or non-profit. In this way, cause-related marketing commodifies charity, making it marketable and available to capitalize on, and altruism becomes and experience that can be bought and displayed for others to see. Companies spend an immense amount of money to advertise for cause-related campaigns, when, if the company was truly concerned with the well-being of victims rather than making a profit, donating that money instead would clearly be a more efficient act. Additionally, Tide’s cause-related campaign targets “symptoms rather than core problems” (Littler 31). For example, instead of providing aid to return running water and rebuild homes (in order to make clean laundry a possibility for everyone), Tide provides a temporary patch for a symptom. This cause-related campaign is constructed in a number of ways.
First and foremost, Tide establishes a product identity for their cause-related campaign, and I think a “Loads of Hope” commercial released directly after hurricane Katrina illustrates this nicely.
Leiss points out four ways in which product identity is constructed.. First, Tide has a slogan: “Loads of Hope”. This is witty, charming, and a play on words. Additionally, “hope” is a fantastic example of words being used as anchors, in which “mobile and playful words…[call] attention to themselves as signs in their own right” (Goldman and Papson 29). This entire campaign, amplifying the effect that clean laundry can have on a natural disaster survivor. “Hope” serves as an anchor for the consumer to dream up a future for any victim; this survivor could regain his life and become something great. It prompts the consumer to think of dreams, strength, and perseverance as being related to freshness and cleanliness, which stands in stark contrast to the visuals of debris, dirt, and destruction in this ad. Secondly, Tide establishes its product identity through association. “Loads of Hope” is closely tied to thoughts of relief, help, and altruism, and every consumer will feel great about their selfless contribution. This is supported with testimonials in the commercial, both by victims that express gratefulness at the help that Loads of Hope has provided, but also from volunteers who are proud to help. However, the campaign as a whole suggests you, the viewer at home, can be appreciated just as much as the volunteers on site by purchasing the Loads of Hope products, perpetuating the idea that charity can purchased, rather than performed personally. Third, Tide uses contiguity by making known their partnership with the American Red Cross. The American Red Cross is already a company that is seen as respectable and charitable, and therefore serves as a kind of source of authority and testimonial to the consumer, who is urged to trust Tide since the American Red Cross does. Lastly, Tide uses testimonials from both volunteers and victims, which I’ve just mentioned. The volunteers speak about being committed to their work and being proud to be helping such a great cause, and the victims express gratefulness at the altruism of the volunteers, Tide, and everyone who has helped. This soothes consumers’ possible fears about the actual impact of their contribution, and establishes Tide as a company that will spend consumer’s money wisely in charitable events.
I believe that the Loads of Hope truck is a kind of crystallization of this identity, in itself.
Photo from Zimbio.com
The fact that Tide is not discreetly and humbly traveling to the sites of these disasters to help says something very important. Rather, they arrive in a large, orange truck with orange vans. Their logo is printed on everything. The truck takes on a personification, capturing the identity of the brand and appearing as a kind of savior (perhaps even more of a hero than the actual volunteers working at the trucks) for both victims and spectators of the situation.
Photo from Medianewsandviews.com
By establishing an identity for their “Loads of Hope” products, Tide has captured a following who exist within an imagined “consumption community” (Leiss 69) of “ethical consumerism” (Littler 29). They are the “cosmopolitan consumers” (Littler 23), those who have the money and free time to travel and learn about and experience different cultures and lifestyles. They are open-minded and care about humanity as well as the environment (Tide boasts energy efficient washers/dryers that speak to environmentally concerned consumers). In this way, they hold a kind of “cultural capital” (Bourdieu xx) in purchasing “Loads of Hope” products. The distinctive yellow cap of “Loads of Hope” detergent makes the product a positional good, serving as not only an eye-catcher for those around the consumer, and therefore as a tool to carry out conspicuous consumption (Veblen), but as an obstacle for the consumer as well. Anyone who wants to contribute to the cause must specifically choose the bottle with the yellow cap, and this association with being an active consumer only amplifies the consumer’s self-identity as an active member of the cause.
Photo from Mandersonalumni.org Photo from Activerain.com
“Loads of Hope” purchasable t-shirts serve as positional goods, as well, telling those around the consumer just how to relate to him and where to place him in society. In this case, the consumer is positioned as caring, socially aware, and a critical thinker. In this way, the products serve as “cultural intermediaries” (Leiss 47), associating the product with the altruistic way of life. Marx calls this “commodity fetishism”, for we attach meanings (in this case, altruism) to products that are not intrinsically there. Although detergent simply cleans the clothes we wear, Tide has become associated with charity, as well as national and global concern, even though these meanings aren’t inherent in the products, themselves. Additionally, Tide gets these meanings across fairly quickly in its ads through what Goldman and Papson call “accelerated meaning”. This is accomplished by constructing socially understood frameworks within which we can decode the meanings, and “once the commercial narrative framework is accepted as unproblematic, we are able to routinely decipher and evaluate the combination of meanings that commercials advance as potential sign currency” (Goldman and Papson 1-2). Tide doesn’t explain how their product works in their “Loads of Hope” campaign. They are assuming the consumer already knows how to use their product, but that isn’t enough to get a potential consumer to buy it. A story needs to be painted fairly quickly, whether its in the 30-second spot of a commercial or the quick glimpse of a print ad. Tide’s ads being context-relevant work well for getting meanings across quickly. Chances are, consumers already know about devastating incidents worldwide. They are already feeling shocked, sad, and obligated to help. All Tide needs to do is tap into those pre-existing feelings.
This imagined community, whose members can immediately be identified by the t-shirts or yellow-capped detergents, leads to a world that is “socially constructed” (Goldman and Papson 18), which is just the first of four ways in which ads are ideological, according to Goldman and Papson. I believe that one of the “Loads of Hope awareness” commercials best illustrates this, and I refer to it as an “awareness” commercial simply because it does not focus on any one instance of aid it has given, but spreads awareness of the campaign in general.
In this world, survivors of the disaster have an enormously increased chance of getting their lives back together and being happy again because their laundry is being done. This is addressed in the very first line of the commercial: “Laundry is more than fabric”. Here, words are used as anchors to show what laundry is. Laundry is home, comfort, family, and hope, just to name a few. As I’ve said, these words are anchored to strong feelings of empathy. Disasters destroy homes and comfort is ripped away, families are separated and hope can seem sparse. These words compel the viewer to feel obligated to help restore these things by purchasing the Loads of Hope products. Additionally, Tide fits into this world as a company that is not concerned at all with profit, but with the well being of families. Secondly, ads are ideological by “[disguising]… inequalities, injustices…and contradictions” (Goldman and Papson 18). This campaign entirely ignores the vast amount of people who cannot afford to wash their clothes regardless of natural disasters. Third, a normative view of the world is promoted in a couple of ways. In a “normative vision of our world” (Goldman and Papson 18), having a well-groomed exterior and looking “put together” reflects having a life that is also put together, and cleanliness is associated with respectability. This particular commercial states multiple times that “Tide is renewing hope by providing clean clothes”, and sentence alone exemplifies the connection between looking admirable and having an admirable lifestyle. Also, the word “families” is emphasized throughout this campaign and especially within this commercial, but in this normative world, the family is heterosexual with one or two kids, and this is precisely what Tide portrays in this ad. In fact, this commercial is opened with and based around a small child being lovingly held and played with by his heterosexual parents, evoking a “what if” situation in the viewer, as in: “what if this child needed my help?” or “what if the children that are victims to these disasters don’t have anyone to care for them like this?” Lastly, Tide ads are ideological in their reflection of the “logic of capital” (Goldman and Papson 18). Consumption is portrayed as a solution to problems, and people feel compelled to help, not by going to the locations, but by purchasing Tide’s detergent at their local supermarket.
Having provided aid in New York, New Jersey, Los Angelos, California, and countless other locations, Tide’s “Loads of Hope” campaign has built a platform of positive credibility and reliability. Although I am a bit skeptical and critical of the values the campaign promises to hold, I do believe that Tide has effectively constructed an identity and campaign for their “Loads of Hope” products. And while I can appreciate the construction of their identity, I think it is important to keep in mind with this campaign and any campaign, for that matter, that identity, values, associated consumer communities are just that: constructions.
Bourdieu, Pierre. Distinction. Paris: Routledge, 1984. Print.
Goldman, Robert and Stephen Papson. Advertising in the Age of Accelerated Meaning. New York: Guilford Press, 1996. Print
“Hurricane Katrina: Facts, Damage and Aftermath.” Livescience. Kim Ann Zimmermann. 20 August 2012.
Leiss, William, et al. Social Communication in Advertising. New York: Routledge, 2005. Print.
Littler, Jo. Radical consumption: Shopping for change in contemporary culture. England: McGraw-Hill Education, 2009. Print.
Marx, Karl. The Fetishism of Commodities. 1867. Print.
Veblen, Thorstein. Conspicuous Consumption. New York: Penguin Books, 2005 Print.