When I was a little kid, reading Dr. Suess’s The Lorax made me feel something that typical 8-year-olds don’t feel too often: guilt. I remember reading the book and watching the TV special and coming close to tears. How could the Once-Lers be so selfish? Was I a metaphorical Once-Ler? How could Dr. Suess betray me and write such a gloom-and-doom book? He was only supposed to make me feel whimsical. I loved the book (it's still one of my favorites), but it terrified me so much that I started to look for impending clouds of smog and dead, furry Loraxes and leafless Truffula trees every time I stepped outside. Suess' tactic was a bit controversial; some parents and critics viewed the book as too scary for children. Ironically, the book was published in 1971, far before Hummers, the scare of An Inconvenient Truth and the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. So Suess was something of a visionary — that's why Hollywood deemed his book worthy of a 2012 remake. It's not as common to see such gloomy stories of despair targeted at children or otherwise in pop culture today; in fact, the "go green" movement focuses almost exclusively on positive outcomes to drive revenue. Your shampoo bottle might scream "X percent waste saved with new packaging!" instead of "This brand will contribute ______ pounds of waste to landfills this year...that's X percent less than last year!" When used incorrectly or unethically, this tactic can snowball into greenwashing, defined as using green marketing or PR to deceptively promote a company as environmentally friendly or consciousness. (Read about the history of the term greenwashing here.) Luckily, people are catching on to the ploy: greenwashingindex.com is dedicated to exposing some of the more shameful greenwashing campaigns, and lauding the more authentic ones.
This recently released Mazda ad, then, has committed a double sin by taking both the Lorax's name in vain and greenwashing.
Watch this commercial and see for yourself:
If you're familiar with the Lorax and his stubborn, stalwart ways, it's safe to say he and his Truffula trees would never speak for the SUVs, even one with "SkyActiv Technology," whatever that means. It's hard to forget that Mazda still contributes to the production of millions of exhaust-pumping vehicles every year manufactured in the same kinds of factories that led to the suffering of those poor Loraxes. Not to mention that in addition to the "green" Mazda CX-5, Mazda also produces a line of SUVs that receive as little as 15 mpg. Green? I think not.
One signer for a petition at Change.org to get Mazda to stop using the Lorax in its marketing commented, "Dr. Suess is rolling in his grave." Another: " The story is about saving the environment from industrial excess, and to me the SUV is the prime example of this excess." According to Mother Nature Network, Mazda is one of dozens of companies using the beloved environmental icon in marketing efforts. The "go green" movement has become influential enough that companies see it as something to capitalize on rather than take to heart; corporate social responsibility is lauded by businesses everywhere as the secret key to strengthening a weakened reputation, attracting big investors and ultimately, boosting revenue. It’s praised to have a positive impact on communities, but it all comes down to the bottom line. It’s awfully rare for a corporation to launch a campaign based on social responsibility that’s not intended, in the end, to increase profits or better an image. Mazda proves that now more than ever.
Sorry, Dr. Suess.