Conversations with Giants

It’s time we had a word

First they invented phones that you could take anywhere. Then they stumbled upon texting and a new language was born. Then they added cameras to the phones so you could take pictures and video of anything you wanted, any time, anywhere and send them to your friends. Then along came sharing and social media. So now we can take a photo and, in a few minutes, if it captures the global imagination, it can go viral. Millions of people can see what you post in the blink of an eye. That is quite something.

Around the same time as this was starting to happen a little drinks company called Innocent started behaving in a way that few brands would dream of. They acted like your friend. They spoke your language (even if it looks a little twee today) and seemed to understand the way you felt. They made it look like they would listen to you. Lots of others followed suit because they saw it as being a good thing. Soon the world was becoming approachable and open and wanted to develop conversations with us instead of telling us what to do.

And so we got to brand engagement, which is nothing more than a conversation. A two way street. Discourse. Interaction.

I think it’s marvellous. Thanks to phones and the internet and all that goes with it we can finally have conversations with giants.

So isn’t it time we turned the tables? Isn’t it our turn to engineer the conversation?

They have to listen. Because if they don’t there’s every chance that we could gang up on them and tell them what to do. If I was a giant I wouldn’t want that. Certainly not if I was a giant with a filthy past. If I was genuinely innocent though, I doubt it’d be a problem.

I’ll get to the point. I found some Nivea bottles on my local beach recently, so I tweeted Nivea in the US of A asking what it was all about. They tweeted me back with an email address for the people in the UK. So I sent them an email and sent them the bottles.

Ever since then I’ve been taking photos of the bottles I have been finding all over the place (in fact at every beach I have been to without exception since December) with my camera phone and then sending them to Nivea because I want them to know that their stuff is washing up all over the place and that I think it’s unacceptable. I post them on twitter and on my blog and hope that others will do the same. It works. I got sent a photo of a Nivea bottle on the beach in Jersey recently. That’s it above. I sent that to Nivea too, as it proves the problem is widespread. Of course it would have been possible to do this before, but it would have been much, much easier for them to ignore me. Now they can’t.

Nivea, to their credit, have been good about it and have been emailing me back. They told me they lost a container at sea about a year ago and that they don’t know how many bottles were lost (really? crikey!). They claim they are monitoring the situation. I found out they got in touch with the National Trust rangers for my beach to ask them to pick up their stuff if they find it, so they are doing something. It’s a start. But I’d still like to see them doing more, like rolling up their sleeves, along with the rest of us, to try to turn back the tide of pollution that is invading our beaches.

I’m not blaming Nivea for the plastic that washes up every day. I know that there are an awful lot of giants out there who are also losing containers at sea, over packaging their products or carelessly allowing plastics to enter the marine environment.

All I’m saying is that I think it’s time we had a word.  Because we can.

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Martin Dorey

Martin Dorey

Author of ‘The Camper Van Cookbook’ and presenter of the BBC2 TV series ‘One man and his Campervan’. Martin is a surfer first and an authority on the apostrophe second. He can often be found eating out of rock pools. MARTINDOREY.COM