Tag Archives: marketing

Navy scraps mailer over sexism accusations

The U.S. Navy said it has scrapped a national recruiting mailer that promised women they can enlist without compromising their feminine side and pursue careers that “most girls aren’t even aware of.”

Navy officials said they made the decision amid criticism that the wording was condescending and perpetuated stereotypes. Lt. Commander Nate Christensen, a Navy spokesman, said officials also have launched a review of all their mailer templates after The Associated Press inquired about the brochure, which has been sent to nearly 203,000 people in numerous states in the last few years.

The mailer invites women to take on “the kind of exciting, hands-on work that most girls aren’t even aware of. Making your mark in career areas that certainly aren’t just for the guys. And what’s more, you can do all this while staying in touch with your feminine side — and while bettering your world along the way.”

Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority Foundation, a national group that works for women’s equality, said the wording undersells a woman’s potential.

“You wouldn’t recruit a boy by saying that,” said Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority Foundation, a national group that works for women’s equality. “What does it say about the Navy? It’s relying on old stereotypes instead of a picture of modern women who can really make a contribution to the Navy and how needed they are.”

Christensen said the wording doesn’t reflect the Navy’s values, saying women make up 18 percent of the Navy and are indispensable to national security.

“Women have shown great courage and sacrifice — we simply could not accomplish the mission without them,” he said.

The Navy’s advertising agency, Campbell Ewald, created the mailer’s content five years ago, Navy officials said. Campbell Ewald officials didn’t immediately respond to emails seeking comment.

It’s not clear how much the Navy spent on the brochure because the costs were part of an advertising contract that wasn’t itemized, Navy officials said.

Since it was created, the brochure has been mailed to about 202,900 people across recruiting districts that include parts of numerous states, including Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Michigan, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah and Wisconsin, Christensen said.

The Navy was reviewing all mailers to ensure they contain language that “reflects our core values and beliefs and are respectful of all,” he said.


How do companies prey on your weaknesses? | A Q&A with the author of ‘Phishing for Phools’

It’s no secret we do things we know we shouldn’t. We overeat, gamble away our savings and live like tomorrow will never come. One reason, two Nobel laureates argue, is that there are plenty of businesses happy to lead us astray.

Robert Shiller, an economist at Yale University, used his understanding of how human behavior can affect markets to predict the dot-com crash of the early 2000s and the housing collapse of 2007. He won the Nobel Prize for Economics in 2013 for his work showing that stock and bond prices can move out of step with economic fundamentals even over the long run.

In his new book with George Akerlof, another Nobel-prize winning economist, Shiller examines the many ways credit-card companies, financial firms and other businesses lure people into buying things that might harm them. The authors call that phishing, adopting the word for a common email scam to a broad array of cynical business practices. They call the person who takes the bait a phool. Their book is called “Phishing for Phools: The Economics of Manipulation and Deception.”

Their big point: It’s not that bad actors are gaming the free market, it’s that hucksters and dishonest marketing are part of the free-market game.

In a recent interview with The Associated Press, Shiller talked about how phishers lure phools, the appeal of one-armed bandits and the media’s misleading fascination with splashy stories. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Q: What prompted you to write this book?

A: I often tend to think that things are not what they seem.

Q: Your focus isn’t on malevolent fraudsters but people just doing their job?

A: We agreed that we shouldn’t portray these people as evil. This is just what you get with free markets, depending on how free you let them be. My previous books were all about the positive aspects to markets. But markets are often presented too positively, with a certain reverence. Life is more complicated than that.

Q: Could you explain why you chose the word, phish?

A: We use it as a metaphor because people are aware of computer phishing. You can so easily be fooled by them because you don’t see all the work that went into luring you in. Things look perfectly plain and simple but in fact it’s all artifice. There are a lot of these phishers, some of them are savvy operators, and they’re experimenting. They find a ploy and, man, it works.

Q: This isn’t a new trend but it’s getting worse?

A: Yes. Take the slot machine. In the 19th Century, it dispensed sweets and toys. It was the first vending machine. Now, it’s optimized for gambling. Companies experiment with different things. There’s the jingling and bright lights, all part of a mesmerizing effect. They like to give you the sense that you’ve almost won, with three cherries, for instance. You can program it so that two cherries come up, and you can see the third cherry stopping just one off. You think, “I almost won!”

I don’t actually play these machines, mind you.

Q: The gist is that businesses keep casting new lures into the water until they get a bite?

A: It’s the same thing with Cinnabon. They don’t publicize the experimentation they do. Manufacturers of food try to get the optimal ratio to tap into your impulsivity. They don’t care about your health. Cinnabon boasts about their genuine Makara cinnamon from Indonesia. They can boast about that sort of thing. They can’t say, “Boy, we really cranked up the fat and sugar.”

They place them carefully indoors, in train stations and airports, where you’ll smell it. You’re frustrated, your flight was delayed, and you’re in a bad mood. They catch you right there. The mind tends to have a conversation, producing an excuse to eat it alongside a memory of your resolve not to eat it. They try to help one side of this conversation with the slogan, “Life needs frosting.” It’s a beautiful slogan, a great justification for giving in. It works, I bet.

Q: You say the news media is guilty of phishing, too. How so?

A: They often focus on things that aren’t important because they know what kind of story sells. In March of last year, this Malaysia Airlines plane went down mysteriously. The logical thing is to think somebody made a mistake. However, the news media latched onto a mystery story for days and days. It’s just a waste of time to think about. In terms of human welfare, it would be much better if the cable stations put up the periodic table of the elements to remind everybody. That would be useful information compared to the Malaysian airlines story.

I was on Neil Cavuto’s Fox Business TV show. He asked me what I thought about the Federal Reserve raising interest rates. I said I don’t think it really matters whether the Fed raises rates this meeting or next meeting. He said, “Look we’re doing a whole show about this.” There’s too much attention to these little stories.

Q: Do you see any speculative bubbles out there now?

A: There was a stock market bubble from 2009 to 2014. It might have ended last year. People have been worried about valuations in the market recently. The problem is there’s no exact science. We don’t know the probabilities of future events. Still, you have to take action and so you do it on gut feeling. That’s the world we live in. There’s so much disagreement about investing, and it’s because nobody really knows.

Las Vegas’ new ad campaign pushes ‘sexy’ watering habits

Another part of the drought-ridden West is attempting to make water conservation sexy, this time with funny ads in Las Vegas.

The Southern Nevada Water Authority this week launched a campaign on television, radio, print and social media themed: “There’s Nothing Sexier Than Saving Water.” The ads were developed by R&R Partners, the firm behind Vegas’ most famous tagline: “What Happens Here, Stays Here.”

The new advertisements depict people adjusting watering clocks as people ogle with lust. It coincides with the new fall restrictions that began this week, which through Oct. 31 limits watering to three days a week and prohibits sprinklers during the day and misting systems at businesses.

In June, San Francisco officials also unveiled sexy ads, which urged residents to go “full-frontal” and take short, steamy showers.

Spokesman Scott Huntley said the new Las Vegas campaign was developed over the last year and that Nevada officials were not aware of San Francisco’s recent ads.

He said the Nevada water agency has for years done two-week long “compliance” promotions during the seasonal transitions, using humorous messages to remind users to be complaint. Violators are first given warnings before fines start at $100, exceeding $1,000 for repeat offenders.

The advertising, which cost about $1.6 million annually, is a part of the longstanding effort to plug water conservation in the desert area that has been in drought for years.

“We were the first to the game on this. We’ve had a tremendous amount of success that’s being emulated in other places,” Huntley said.

The previous “Don’t Make Us Ask You Again” theme was used for eight years in Vegas and featured male-centric slapstick humor because research showed that the typical household water controller was, according to Huntley, a “Joe Six Pack,” or a man in his late 20s to 50s.

And perhaps as proof that sex sells to everyone, Huntley said the new ads were made to also target expanding demographics, including those who are older and more diverse and female.

“There are certainly things that grab people’s attention and humor does it a lot and one of the primary aspects of humor is the sexual humor, the sexy humor — that’s one of the basics,” Huntley said.

Consumers eager to pay 30 percent more for ‘fair trade’ products

Products labeled with a Fair Trade logo cause prospective buyers to dig deeper into their pockets.

In an experiment conducted at the University of Bonn, participants were willing to pay on average 30 percent more for ethically produced goods, compared to their conventionally produced counterparts.

The neuroscientists analyzed the neural pathways involved in processing products with a Fair Trade emblem. They identified a potential mechanism that explains why Fair Trade products are evaluated more positively. For instance, activity in the brain’s reward center increases and thereby alters willingness to pay computations.

Since its launch in 2003, the Fair Trade logo has hardly changed.

Currently, it is found on a great variety of products, including coffee, bananas, creams, wine bottles and more.

Critically, the emblem influences subjective evaluations of products, as researchers at the Center for Economics and Neuroscience at the University of Bonn demonstrated in their latest study. While test subjects lay in a brain scanner, they bid on various food products. Each of these products was available in two versions — Fair Trade or conventionally produced. The results were clear: On average, participants were willing to pay around 30 percent more for products produced according to Fair Trade standards, compared to their conventionally produced counterparts.

As the study was conducted in a brain scanner at the LIFE&BRAIN Center in Bonn, researchers could also show that products labeled with this emblem led to increased activity in specific brain regions. For example, they observed increased activation in regions important for reward processing as well as frontal regions that process abstract product attributes — whether or not a product carries a Fair Trade logo, and the meaning of such a label.

Part of the frontal lobe ultimately calculates the willingness to pay in an area known as the ventromedial prefrontal cortex which refers to the area’s location.

“The higher the activity in the vmPFC, the more money subjects were willing to pay,” said professor Bernd Weber, neuroscientist at the University of Bonn. The scanner data suggests that the vmPFC integrates information from other brain areas and uses this information to calculate an overall value. Based on information from various regions, it reaches a decision: Would I pay 50 cents for the Fair Trade banana? Or just 30 cents?

The Fair Trade logo leads to even more widespread effects. The food labeled with Fair Trade logos also tasted better to consumers.

In a second experiment, participants sampled two pieces of chocolate, declared as coming from either Fair Trade or conventional production. Participants then rated the product’s palatability. The piece of chocolate labeled with a Fair Trade emblem received superior taste evaluations. “Pure imagination,” said the study’s lead author, Laura Enax. “Both pieces of chocolate are actually identical.”

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Research links Congress’ low approval to decline in warm, agreeable language

A new study links Congress’ low approval ratings — record lows — to a decline in the use of warm, agreeable language in the House of Representatives.

The study, co-authored by University of British Columbia business professor Karl Aquino, found the use of prosocial words — such as “cooperate” and “contribute” – by lawmakers predicts public approval of Congress six months later.

“If members of Congress want to be viewed more positively by the public, it appears that the words they use matter,” said Aquino, a marketing and behavioral science professor in at UBC’s Sauder School of Business. “Our study suggests that the electorate is listening and reacts favorably when congressional members use prosocial language.”

The researchers’ results were derived from a textual analysis of 124 million words spoken in the U.S. House of Representatives between 1996 and 2014, using a computer model that searched for words validated as having prosocial connotations.

The words whose decline most strongly predicted a decline in public approval were “gentle,” “involve,” “educate,” “contribute,” “concerned,” “give,” “tolerate,” “trust” and “cooperate.”

Congress’s approval rating has slumped precipitously since 2002, when public approval was reliably over 50 percent. Recent polls cite ratings as low as only 10 percent.

Aquino and his co-authors controlled for factors that may have contributed to declining approval, such as the unemployment rate and governance factors, such as the number of bills passed and presidential vetoes. They found that warm, prosocial language was the strongest single predictor of public sentiment.

The research, “A Decline in Prosocial Language Helps Explain Public Disapproval of the U.S. Congress,” was co-authored by Aquino with Jeremy Frimer,Harrison Oakes, Jochen Gebauer and Luke Zhu.

In tune online: Live Nation, Yahoo stream a concert a day

Live Nation’s partnership with Yahoo to stream one live concert every day is a rare win for music fans. The series, which began with the Dave Matthews Band in mid-July, offers free, high-quality concert footage in a way that helps the companies providing it, since selling ads is more profitable than concert promotion.

The deal opens up a new revenue stream for Live Nation, which reported second quarter earnings Thursday that fell short on profit but beat Wall Street’s revenue expectations. And for Yahoo, premium video ad prices could be a cure for its plunging display ad rates.

Concerts globally are having a down year as a larger number of big acts sacrifice their own tour dates to play at popular festivals like Coachella and Lollapalooza, according to an analysis by the trade magazine Pollstar. And while Live Nation’s events are doing better than the industry overall, the company takes a tiny slice of concert proceeds even as it invests in improvements to apps and websites to attract more people.

On the Yahoo Screen app featuring the new Live Nation channel, advertisers like Kraft, Kellogg’s, Citigroup and Sprint are running pre-roll advertising and in-stream overlays. Given robust demand for the commercial time, Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino told investors in May the streams would be “a positive revenue channel almost (from) day one.” He went further Thursday, saying he expects to expand programming with Yahoo and other distribution partners to help accelerate advertising revenue growth.

Another beneficial element of the deal: Live Nation isn’t paying for the rights to the content. Artists, whose incomes are hurting from a decline in digital downloads, are happy to allow their concerts to be streamed, mainly to promote future ticket sales and song downloads. Plus, the performers get to keep a copy of the show for re-use and DVD sales.

“We’re getting paid in promotion and the fact we don’t have to hire our own crew” to shoot the concert, said Brian Klein, manager of Los Angeles-based indie pop band Fitz & The Tantrums.

On August 20, John Legend will reprise Marvin Gaye’s album, “What’s Going On?” in concert at the Hollywood Bowl. Legend’s manager Ty Stiklorious believes it might cost $500,000 to shoot such a one-time-only event. But in exchange for Legend receiving a copy of the recording in about a year, Yahoo will cover venue fees, songwriting royalties, crew wages and pay for the 50-piece orchestra that will accompany the R&B singer.

“They said they would do it regardless of all the issues and complexities around filming it,” Stiklorious said. “We’re so excited and happy.”

Artist managers don’t fear a loss of ticket sales, either. Attending in person is far different from watching from a couch or on a mobile device, they say. And usually, the event is already sold out or in a far-off location -like Justin Timberlake’s upcoming Aug. 24 concert in Iceland.

Increasingly, Live Nation Entertainment Inc. is becoming an advertising business that uses concerts as its “content.” While the company loses money putting on the concerts themselves, advertising and third-party sponsorships at venues have become its most profitable segment.

“Concerts, on paper, are very low-margin and as a result they have to push margin into other areas of the business,” says Rick Tullo, an analyst with Albert Fried & Co. “Advertising is the big one.”

Last year, Live Nation lost nearly a penny for every dollar it made in concert promotion revenue, which rose 17 percent to $4.52 billion. But it kept two-thirds of every dollar made from advertising, which climbed 15 percent to $284.7 million. Profit from advertising was nearly twice as big as profit derived from ticket-selling, which makes it even more important to the company as it seeks its first year of positive net income since 2004.

On the concert deal, Live Nation will split ad revenue 50-50 with Yahoo after Yahoo recoups the costs of shooting and producing the concerts.

For Yahoo, the deal helps bolster multiple areas of weakness: by paying for exclusive content, Yahoo hopes it can boost the price of ads. Prices for display ads, once Yahoo’s mainstay, fell 24 percent last quarter, offset only by greater volume. Still, the result was an overall 4 percent drop in the company’s revenue to $1.14 billion.

“We’ve continued our focus on video with investments in unique premium content,” Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer told analysts on a conference call this month. “Fundamentally, premium content draws premium advertisers.”

Now Yahoo just has to get concert lovers to tune in.

Online: Yahoo Screen’s Live Nation channel: http://yhoo.it/Ur8OQB

Brand identity: Pro-LGBT campaigns celebrate Pride

Many recognizable brands are showcasing their support for equality through high profile LGBT-centered advertisements and social media promotions as Americans celebrate Pride Month.

In years past, many companies and brands rarely — if ever — used LGBT-specific themes in marketing or advertisements. Today, businesses recognize that a pro-equality stance is a way to entice the millions of fair-minded Americans who champion LGBT civil rights as an important issue, according to a survey by the Human Rights Campaign. The nation’s largest LGBT civil rights group keeps track of corporate policies and positions for a ratings guide that’s released annually.

While companies increasingly are showing off rainbow stripes, Christian right boycotts against them are failing. The National Organization for Marriage’s calls for boycotts against Starbucks and General Mills — after the companies endorsed marriage equality initiatives in Washington and Minnesota — had no lasting impact on sales and only emboldened the corporate giants to be more vocal in their support for equality. Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz told one anti-equality shareholder, “If you feel, respectfully, that you can get a higher return than the 38 percent you got last year, it’s a free country. You can sell your shares of Starbucks and buy shares in another company. Thank you very much.”

Some of the more visible brands and their LGBT Pride campaigns:

• Marriott International made news with its #LoveTravels campaign featuring images of LGBT people in print ads, billboards, and social media promotions. 

• Macy’s, which partnered with HRC to celebrate Pride Month, is featuring Pride merchandise in stores.

• Apple is celebrating LGBT Pride in the iTunes Store, where it offers a collection of LGBT-themed movies, apps, music, books, and more. Many Apple employees and their families are marching in the San Francisco Pride Parade on June 29.

• Honey Maid has changed the profile picture on its social media platforms to two graham crackers that form an equal sign.

• Google adds a rainbow-colored border to its search bar when users search for LGBT-related terms.

• Designer Kenneth Cole has offered limited edition T-shirts featuring the red HRC equal sign logo inlaid with the text, “Unite The States of America … Support Marriage Equality for all of U.S.”

• AT&T has launched its “Live Proud” campaign, inviting users to create and upload their own memes in celebration of awareness, empowerment and Pride.

• Nike has released a limited edition #BETRUE apparel line to celebrate Pride.

• Levi’s launched a Pride Month collection. 

• General Mills is using Lucky Charms as the face of its Pride promotions. The company launched a Web video that encourages social media followers to tweet and post the reasons why they’re proud using the hashtag #LuckyToBe.

• Ben & Jerry’s has shared Pride-themed images on social media with the slogan, “Love Comes in All Flavors.”

• Nordstrom has asked its LGBT and allied employees to share their thoughts on Pride Month in a photo montage on the store’s website. 

WNBA debuts Pride site, plans Pride game

Amid a surge of public opinion in favor of gay rights in the United States, the WNBA is launching a campaign to market the league to the LGBT community, becoming the first pro sports league to specifically recruit gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender fans to its games.

With the marketing campaign, the WNBA is capitalizing on what it has known for years: The community makes up a significant portion of its fan base. The difference now is that the league is talking about it publicly and making it a deliberate part of its marketing strategy.

The campaign, which began with the debut of a website, includes having teams participate in local Pride festivals and parades, working with advocacy groups to raise awareness of inclusion through grassroots events and advertising with lesbian media. A nationally televised Pride game will take place between Tulsa and Chicago on June 22. All 12 teams will also have some sort of pride initiative over the course of the season.

“For us it’s a celebration of diversity and inclusion and recognition of an audience that has been with us very passionately,” WNBA president Laurel Richie said.

It’s taken the league 18 years to take the step, though it had discussions about the possibility previously. Teams have done some promotion locally, sponsoring booths at gay pride events and hosting groups at games.

“We embrace all our fans and it’s a group that we know has been very, very supportive. I won’t characterize it as `Why did it take so long?’ For me it’s been we’ve been doing a lot of terrific initiatives. The piece that’s different this year is unifying it,” Richie said.

Before launching the campaign, the league took a close look at its fan base. It commissioned a study in 2012 that found that 25 percent of lesbians watch the league’s games on TV while 21 percent have attended a game.

Rick Welts, who was the executive vice president and chief marketing officer of the NBA when the WNBA first started in 1997, said that when the league began executives figured the fan base would be a carryover from the NBA.

“We guessed very wrong on that,” said Welts, who is the president and COO of the Golden State Warriors and became the highest-ranking executive in men’s sports to publicly acknowledge he’s gay in 2011. “Maybe we should have known better. I think from its outset, the WNBA attracted a fan with different interests than our profile of an NBA fan.

“I remember sitting in a few meetings where we had really interesting thoughtful discussions of: Should we be proactive marketing to the LGBT community? What does that say if we do? We certainly didn’t want to position the league of being exclusionary to anyone. What were we saying if we did it more proactively? Society and sports culture is very different today than it was back then. Teams were trying to figure out the right thing to do.”

Brittney Griner, who is one of a handful of WNBA athletes who have publicly identified as lesbian, was happy the league was embracing the community. Griner, who was the No. 1 pick by the Phoenix Mercury in the draft in 2013, plans on wearing rainbow-colored shoes during the month of June in support of the initiative.

“We’ll pave the way and show its fine and there’s nothing wrong with it. More sports need to do it. It’s 2014, it’s about time,” said Griner, who served as grand marshal of the Phoenix Pride parade last season.

Rebecca Lobo, who played in the league for six seasons and has been a broadcaster for the last decade, has seen a change from when the league began in 1997.

“It’s culturally more acceptable now than it was when it first started,” she said. “The league has been around for so many years they can do these sort of things without worrying about what some people might think.”

It wasn’t always that way.

“For a long time they were happy to have those lesbians fill those seats in the stands, but not willing for a long time to embrace the fan base,” said Pat Griffin, professor emeritus in the social justice education program at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. “I attribute that to the homophobia, fear that somehow acknowledging the fan base would encourage other fans not to go to games. What they’ve learned is that the fan doesn’t keep other people from going to games.”

On the Web …


Media, business outreach to LGBT market growing

Thanks to straight allies in the local media, Wisconsin’s LGBT population is gaining more widespread attention than ever. That speaks to the desirability of the gay market, which numerous studies have shown is loyal to marketers who reach out to them, and it’s welcome recognition of the vital role LGBT citizens play in our communities. WiG gives a shoutout to two of those media outlets.

In March, Milwaukee Magazine featured two brides on its cover as part of a story about the economic benefits that legalizing same-sex marriage would bring to the state. The magazine conducted original research and found that marriage equality here could result in almost $44 million in spending during the first three years of legalization. Their research is confirmed by the Williams Institute of the University of California – Los Angeles, whose work has repeatedly shown a comparable rate of return from same-sex marriage in other states.

Nationwide, people who have never heard of the economic benefits that come with doing the right thing are becoming aware. Wisconsin badly needs that kind of boost, and now fairness advocates have numbers to dangle in front of equality obstructionists who claim to be “pro-business.”

Several months ago, the Shepherd Express hired Colin Murray as a sales consultant. He’s an out gay man who also serves as the executive director of Buy Local Dane. And this week, the Shepherd launched a new LGBT events and advice column by the popular Milwaukee drag personality Dear Ruthie. Portrayed by professional food writer and actor Mark Hagen, the popular Ruthie is sure to enliven the Shepherd’s pages. In addition to his considerable talent, Hagen is a good egg. As the brassy redhead Ruthie, he’s raised untold sums of money for local nonprofit organizations. He’s a smart catch for any publication.

The Shepherd Express also recently joined the Wisconsin LGBT Chamber of Commerce as a gold member. More than 120 businesses around the state have joined the chamber in its first year-and-a-half of existence. Ranging from small mom-and-pop shops to such corporate giants as AT&T and MillerCoors, those businesses are in effect showing their confidence in the strength of our market.

Here at WiG, launched exactly four-and-a-half years ago, we welcome our newest media allies and celebrate the ongoing success we’ve had as Wisconsin’s go-to progressive/LGBT publication. Last week, we were proud to learn we’re being honored with eight Milwaukee Press Club Awards for our work in 2013. That means we’ve won a total of 17 awards in three years from the nation’s oldest — and the state’s premier — press club. There’s nothing more gratifying than having your peers recognize the quality of your work.

Many, many thanks to the hundreds of distribution sites and advertisers who have made us the fastest-growing and most honored alternative newsprint publication in Milwaukee. And, as always, special thanks to our mentor/CEO Leonard Sobczak, whose financial support and unflinching integrity guide us every step of the way.

Protesters target Walmart’s false environmental claims, shoddy work conditions

Black Friday brings big deals from the world’s largest retailer, but this year’s  annual retail holiday also will bring demonstrations to Walmart, as environmentalists across the country demand change from one of the world’s largest polluters.

Employees and advocates for fair labor and better wages will also demonstrate on Nov. 29 in as many as 1,500 actions across the United States.

“I think America needs to wake-up to what Walmart is and that there is a huge price being paid for the products Americans think they are getting cheaply,” said Samantha Pickens of Atlanta, who was recruiting Black Friday demonstrators the week before Thanksgiving.

Pickens’ partner, Toni Evans, also of Atlanta, added, “Walmart is destructive in so many ways. It’s an irony that after we spend a day giving thanks for all we have, we run out to this place and gorge, gobbling up more, and helping Walmart damage the earth in the process.”

With the arrival of the holiday retail season, activists such as Evans and Pickens are joining others, including representatives of leading environmental groups, in calling on Walmart to live up to the public relations image it has manufactured and go green. Walmart execs promised in 2005 to become corporate leaders in the green movement, but the company’s greenhouse gas emissions continue to exceed those of many countries, and Walmart’s use of renewable power actually declined in 2012.

“Despite its recent PR events on renewable energy, the truth is that Walmart lags far behind many other retailers in making the shift to wind and solar,” state representatives of nine leading environmental groups said in a letter to Walmart’s board of directors and the Walton family, which owns half the company.

They continue, “More troubling still, Walmart has made clear that it plans to increase the amount of climate change pollution it pumps into the atmosphere over the coming decade.”

The letter, signed by the Sierra Club, Rainforest Action Network, Friends of the Earth, the Institute for Policy Studies, Energy Action Coalition and others, calls for fundamental changes to the company’s business model, which “continues to elevate profits above all else and leaves devastation in its wake.” In 2012, Walmart generated $17 billion in profits. The Walton family is worth $144.7 billion.

The environmental leaders also took up the lack of fair treatment and decent wages for employees in their letter: “Walmart is profitable because it externalizes its costs onto people, including its own workers, and the environment. We affirm that true sustainability entails a commitment to a viable future for both the environment and people.”

The statement from the groups coincided with the November release of a report by the Institute for Local Self-Reliance that examined change — or lack of change — since 2005, when then-CEO Lee Scott said the company had a “responsibility to reduce greenhouse gases as quickly as it can.”

Public opinion polls conducted over the past eight years show that Walmart succeeded in convincing many consumers that is a green company. But research shows that Walmart green washed its image — the record doesn’t match the reputation. The ILSR paper, Walmart’s Assault on the Climate: The Truth Behind One of the Biggest Climate Polluters and Slickest Green Washers in America, claims that if the retailer was included on the Greenhouse 100 Polluters Index it would rank No. 33, just behind Chevron. Walmart is not listed because the index is for heavy industrial firms — oil companies and metal smelters — not retailers.

Stacy Mitchell, a senior researcher with the nonprofit ILSR and author of Big-Box Swindle, wrote the paper. 

She reported:

• In the eight years since Scott said the climate change “science is in and it is overwhelming,” Walmart’s greenhouse gas emissions have grown at least 14 percent and continue to rise.

• Walmart lags behind other retailers in making the shift to renewable power. The company derives 4 percent of the electricity used to power its stores from wind and solar projects. Kohl’s Department Stores and Whole Foods Market get all of their electricity from renewable sources.

• Walmart, in measuring its pollution, omits several major sources of greenhouse gas emissions, including those generated by its international shipping operation.

Walmart is the largest importer of ocean cargo containers in the United States, responsible for importing one in every 25 containers shipped to the country.

According to the ILSR report, ocean shipping is a leading source of climate pollution. It causes more CO2 emissions than all but five countries.

And the ships that haul the cargo typically burn a dirty “bunker” fuel that produces black carbon — soot — and nitrogen oxide — a precursor to smog.

Walmart, in measuring its pollution, also ignores the impact of clearing land and building stores. Between 2005 and 2012, the company built 1,316 new U.S. “supercenters” — expanding its store space by 200 million square feet. Its plans for 2014–15 call for 516 additional stores — another 26-28 million square feet — using cement and steel.

The company usually develops fresh land, turning woods and fields into asphalt, Mitchell said.

• Walmart continues to be a major contributor to the campaigns of politicians who oppose action to deal with the climate crisis, and some who deny the science.

In her research, Mitchell found that since 2003 Walmart’s PAC has given more than $22 million to federal and state candidates and political parties. Sam Walton’s heirs also are major political donors.

From 2005 to 2012, more than half of the PAC and family donations to congressional campaigns went to members who voted against the environment at least 70 percent of the time. In 2007–08, 80 percent of Walmart donations to Senate campaigns went to members who voted against the Lieberman-Warner cap-and-trade bill. Meanwhile, 70 percent of the PAC and family donations to federal lawmakers went to those who supported the Keystone XL Tar Sands Pipeline.

“Behind all of Walmart’s slick green washing is a business model that is fundamentally unsustainable,” said Mitchell. “It depends on a highly polluting, far-flung global supply chain and a network of sprawling supercenters. It exploits workers and wields political influence to undermine the common good.”

Environmental leaders, responding to the ILSR report, want Walmart to adopt a publicly verifiable method for tracking its emissions, to commit to an overall 20-percent reduction in emissions by 2020 and to end its reliance on “dirty coal, fracking and tar sand oil.”

Said Michael Marx of the Sierra Club, “Walmart is failing on climate exactly like it is failing on worker’s rights. If Walmart wants us to live better, it can start by treating its workers with the dignity and respect they deserve and taking real steps to cut carbon pollution.”