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These Come From Trees ... and vandals

  • B2B Marcom
  • It's one thing when a company establishes and controls their message to their audience. It's entirely another when a third-party takes over the company's store/product for another purpose.

    An organization known as These Come From Trees is providing stickers to people who are willing to place them on items that dispense paper products. As an example, it is suggested that people put these stickers on towel and napkin dispensers in restaurants.

    It is truly an admirable goal to attempt to get people to conscientiously
    consume disposable paper products (admit it, we've all grabbed 10 napkins when
    we only ended up using two). But to encourage vandalism is simply wrong. The
    organization seems very misguided on this point. For example (quoting from their website):

    "...the bathroom owner is just a part of this project as the label sticker. She's the one who decides whether it stays or goes. And if the ink is smeared, it ceases to provide value to that bathroom owner, and simply becomes another bit of graffiti for that poor business owner to deal with. And that is the opposite of the win-win proposition we're trying to achieve here."

    In other words, it isn't graffiti until the vandal says it is.

    In other words, if a vandal places a sticker where the business owner never intended to have a sticker, it is somehow virtuous and OK, as long as the sticker is pristine.

    In other words, by placing a sticker in someone's business, the vandal is "providing value".

    WRONG! WRONG! and WRONG! How misguided.

    To me this actually seems to go a bit beyond vandalism and approaches terrorism. I can envision some form of implicit extortion occurring. "If you don't appear to be complying with our program, we'll paper your business with our stickers."

    The cause is noble, the execution is atrocious - and smacks of people dealing from a position of perceived powerlessness.

    I suggest that this organization consider the fact that they do possess a great deal of power. Most of us (consumers) do care about our impact on our environment, on our "pollution footprint", etc. This program would be better-served if it were to tap into our willingness to go along with the bigger picture (not just with their feeble graffiti project) and:

    • get some energy behind the idea (including donations and other funds behind a promo program that encourages consumers to prefer establishments that are tree-friendly)
    • then get businesses to willingly implement their program while being supported by the tree-friendly promo program

    I prefer's take on this topic :

    "So combine this germ of knowledge with the fact that there are currently about 50,000 fast food restaurants, 200,000 gas stations, and 10,000 Starbucks in the US and it's easy to see how we could be saving a whole lot of trees by implementing just one type of sticker in bathrooms across America. And I can say one thing for sure; if I were the CEOof one of the companies footing the bill for all of these paper goods each year I'd go out and buy these stickers by the caseload, mandate they be put in every bathroom in the company, and then add the savings to the bottom line. Let's face reality, wasting paper towels is wasting green in more ways than one..."

    Exactly! Partner with the companies that dispense the paper. Don't attack them.

    This isn't B2B, but it is Marcom, and it is a very interesting topic to kick around in your departments. Questions I will ask my team:

    *Why does the organization feel they need to skulk about and vandalize?
    *Is there a better way to take a good cause and give it a negative connotation? (posed sarcastically)
    *What effect does an unsavory campaign have on the originating organization?
    *What can we do to ensure that we NEVER come anywhere near doing something like this?
    *What good can we take from this situation?

    I'd appreciate your comments as well.