Mattel, Barbie, Ken and Asia Pulp & Paper

Greenpeace are keeping the pressure up on Mattel around deforestation and concrete steps to prevent it in the company’s supply chain.

In the eyes of some, it might not be fair.

But whatever your views, the campaign has resulted in 240,000 messages being sent to the company. Apparently 1.3 million people have seen this video.

(321,000 have seen the one I linked to, the other million must have watched another clip. I hear that the Spanish and French videos were also very popular)

Lucky for Mattel this didn’t come out in October or November, when parents are planning Christmas gifts.

Mattel, says Greenpeace has responded so far thus:

“Within 24 hours of Barbie’s scandalous habit becoming worldwide news they issued a statement promising investigations of how they could remove products coming from notorious forest destroyer Asia Pulp and Paper (APP) from their supply chains.

But since then they’ve been silent on how they will actually implement the changes necessary to ensure that their toys no longer come wrapped in rainforest destruction.”

Now, I’m sure Mattel executives can tell us all how they have been badly treated here, with not enough advance warning about the campaign or time to respond before it launched etc.

Who knows, if they said that, they might be right.

But it does seem odd to me, that in the midst of a PR crisis, as they clearly are, to take more than a week to respond substantively.

The trick in a crisis is to come out hard, fast and in some detail, to talk about how you plan to fix the problem. Not wait three weeks or a month.

Whether you agree with Greenpeace or not, millions of consumers have seen the negative publicity around rainforest packaging and traceability.

I would have thought Mattel would have learned from their China toy recalls crisis a few years ago that a quick response is a good idea.

They don’t want this incident to become a business school case study, as the China recalls problem already has.

I don’t want to be unfair to Mattel. I’ve met executives from the company more than once and been impressed by their commitments to responsible business.

Prakash Sethi, a respected academic, spoke highly back in 2007 of their commitment to improving workers rights and conditions in China.

The full NY Times story on Mattel’s progressive history on labour conditions is here, from 2007.

If any readers can shed any light as to why its taking the company so long to respond, I’d be interested to know.

Here’s Timberland’s global head of marketing on the impact of 200,000 customer and campaigner emails to their CEO, taped a few weeks ago.

UPDATE: Here’s a new podcast taped yesterday on APP’s response to the ongoing campaign and their hapless PR firm, Cohn & Wolfe.


  1. Anonymous

    The video you link to is in English. I watched the video in Spanish – that one has 334.000 views. Guess you need to add up all the different languages. Seems there are quite a few.

  2. I have loved the creativity of this multilayered campaign in reaching out beyond traditional activist community,and very effective use of media.

    Whether it would have affected Xmas shopping sales is debatable. When we explained why Ken had dumped Barbie to my 6 year old god-daughter her response was "Daddy, I want a Chainsaw Barbie!"

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