The Mysterious Motive Behind Lacoste's Breakthrough Campaign / by Greg Monaco

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Yesterday morning I was reminded of Lacoste’s “Save Our Species” campaign that garnered much adulation with two gold Clios and a load of press coverage. If you remember, Lacoste temporarily replaced the iconic alligator patch found on their polos with a limited run of similarly-illustrated endangered species.

All polo sales featuring the creatures helped to fund conservation efforts. On the surface, it’s a perfect stunt: A good fit for the brand (alligator saves its animal pals) followed by universal adoration from marketing peers.

But as I thought about it, the story became more complicated. How come I never identified Lacoste with wildlife conservation before? Beyond the cute alligator on the polo, what’s the story behind Lacoste that speaks to saving animals?

There isn't one.

The alligator logo does have a story but it has nothing to do with species-saving. Perhaps there was a more essential motivator at play for the campaign?

Maybe I found something.

In 2009, a Dutch organization called “Rank a Brand” started comparing and ranking brands on sustainability and corporate social responsibility. Its goal is to arm consumers with knowledge about the brands they support.

Each brand gets scored and ranked against brands in the same category. In fashion, Lacoste achieved Rank a Brand’s lowest possible sustainability score: “Don’t buy.” Here’s what Rank a Brand says, “This is our lowest possible sustainability score, and Lacoste has earned it by communicating nothing concrete about the policies for environment, carbon emissions or labor conditions in low-wages countries.”

Now, I realize this is a data point of one. But it got me thinking: Did Rank a Brand rankle the leadership of Lacoste enough to employ these new policies? Was Lacoste genuine about wildlife conservation? Or more interested in self-preservation?