business news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kevin Coupe

It is a measure of how central sexual harassment has become to the cultural zeitgeist that Schweppes, the sparkling beverage brand, has decided to make it part of a marketing campaign.

To be honest, I’m not sure how many more beverages this campaign will sell. There will be some - people who support feminist values and basic human dignity - who will want to support the brand precisely because of this effort, just as there will be some who will decide that they don’t need to be lectured by beverage company. What this does, however, is effectively put the company front and center in an important cultural debate.

The initiative is taking place in Brazil, a place where, according to a story in Fast Company, more than eight out of 10 women complain of being harassed while in nightclubs. In an attempt to illustrate just how bad the situation is, the company hired engineers and designers who created a dress outfitted with sensors; three different women wore the same dress to three different clubs on the same evening, and the technology tracked how many times and where they were touched/groped during that time.

The result - in a period of almost four hours, they were touched a total of 157 times, or more than 40 times an hour. And it was all chronicled in a video (see above).

This is the second time in less than a week that I’ve found myself writing about business decisions and initiatives that are related to the Me Too movement. Last week, it was about the pressure places on a number of radio stations to ban the playing of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” because of lyrics that, in the context of current sensibilities, seem perilously close to hinting at date rape. (More about this in “Your Views.”)

I suppose it could be argued that this is just ephemeral, that in a few months the culture will be on to something else. But I wouldn’t buy that argument. I think - and hope - that this is a persistent awakening of the public consciousness, that we’re all learning something in this moment, that our sons and daughters will be more aware and sensitive as a result.

It won’t be an easy process. There always are bumps and potholes on the road to enlightenment, and people will be confused and perplexed and even a little scared along the way. But if it ends up with people having their Eyes Open, I think it’ll be worth it.

KC's View: