Balloon drop: How not to do marketing

"Doing good is better business."



In the face of overwhelming negative public opinion, a nightclub still decided to proceed with an event that would have contributed to the country’s waste problem, only cancelling it after strong urging from the government’s environment agency.

Cove Manila announced that it was selling tickets at P2,000 (general admission) and P4,000 (VIP) to a “historic” 130,000-balloon drop set for Dec. 31. A nightclub located at Okada Manila, a casino resort and hotel complex in the Entertainment City gaming strip in Parañaque, Cove Manila said in its publicity material: “Be part of history as Cove Manila attempts to break the Guinness World Record for the biggest balloon drop in the world as we welcome the New Year!” 

Thousands of netizens were quick to express their anger at the plan, citing environmental concerns. One of the many commenters on Cove Manila’s Faecbook page, said, “Looking at your past posts, your original announcement of the event has an Angry:Sad:Like ratio of 15k:2k:944! [Angry 15,000—Sad 2,000—Like 944]. The negative comments abound.”

DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu stepped in and asked Cove Manila not to push through with the balloon drop. DENR spokesman Benny Antiporda said the department would not hesitate to arrest the organizers and file charges against them, calling the event a “solid waste disaster waiting to happen.”

Cove Manila defended themselves in a Facebook statement posted Dec. 29: “Firstly, the balloons are biodegradable. Secondly, the balloon drop has been planned with solid environmental management protocols in place to minimize, if not eliminate, any possible impact on the environment. And thirdly, we are recycling all the balloons and creatively turning them into something useful.” They also said the event will be held indoors.

First, even rubber latex balloons are not ‘biodegradable’ in the sense that paper is. Latex material takes years to degrade and only in the right temperatures and conditions. Second, what are these “protocols”? If they did not have the balloon drop in the first place, there would be no waste to dispose of! Third, what were they going to recycling the waste into? They did not say at the time. It was all quite vague, and, because of that, questionable.

In addition, the Guinness Book no longer monitors environmentally unsound practices including balloon drops. But Cove Manila used the Guinness name—do the officials of the Guinness Book know about this? If Cove Manila was trying to break the record unofficially, why did they not say so? 

Upon receiving a letter from the DENR, Cove Manila canceled the event. However, the balloons have already been inflated. News reports said the club would recycle the waste into ecobricks or school chairs. 

Cove Manila’s initial insistence on holding their event despite the DENR and the clamor of netizens seemed to be plain stubbornness and the unwillingness to admit a mistake. They have tarnished their brand. It’s a public relations disaster.

Peninsula Manila, on the other hand, also set to hold a much smaller NYE balloon drop, canceled it voluntarily after observing all this. In a statement they said, “Oftentimes it’s all too easy for the celebrations to come with a big price tag for the planet. 

“But it is also possible for the New Year’s celebrations to be environmentally-friendly as well as enjoyable which is why we will no longer be having our traditional balloon drop as it is not in keeping with our Sustainable Luxury Vision 2020 philosophy.” Now that’s a better attitude to take.

When companies behave ethically, the better its reputation among customers and the more business it generates.

In a 2017 study by Cone Communications about corporate social responsibility, 87 percent of consumers said “they would be willing to buy a product or service based on a company’s advocacy concerning a social matter,” and 76 percent of those surveyed said “they would decline to do business with a company if it held views and supported issues that conflicted with their beliefs.”

Wayne Elsey, writing for Forbes magazine in May 2018, said: “The bottom line for businesses large and small is that you get a competitive advantage in regards to sales and also talent recruitment by not only claiming that you support positive social outcomes but also by walking the walk and demonstrating it.”

Not only does being environmentally-friendly burnish a brand, it also benefits the company. “When we prevent physical waste, increase energy efficiency, or improve resource productivity, we save money, improve profitability and enhance competitiveness,” said Keivan Zokaei, writing for The Guardian in 2013.

In short, doing good is not only morally and ethically responsible, it’s also better business.

Dr. Ortuoste: Everyone should watch The Lorax movie. FB and Twitter: @DrJennyO

Topics: Cove Manila , Okada Manila , Cone Communications , rubber latex balloons , Roy Cimatu , Benny Antiporda
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