Catastrophe as Category Disruption


In our previous post we touched on Coca Cola’s reluctant product placement in The Road—a movie portraying life after an unnamed cataclysm, where there is no longer any sort of plant life and the only food left for survivors are dwindling supplies of packaged foods—(or other survivors, if you swing that way). No manufacturing has survived in the world Cormac McCarthy has envisioned for The Road, although here and there some labeled canned goods are hoarded and stolen like some new type of currency.

Question: If “family brand” soda companies were hesitant to be “associated with cannibalism” are other end-of-the-world scenarios any less damning?

One brand that seems to think so, is Diesel. In 2007 the jeans company named after petroleum fuel oil, gleefully embraced global cataclysm as their new brand promise with their “Global Warming Ready” campaign.

(Note: Although the subject is “global warming” the narrator of this video sounds a lot more like BP CEO, Tony Hayward than Al Gore…)

Accepted by many as a satirical reaction to sanctimonious and self-serving “cause marketing,” but looked at from another angle, Diesel’s campaign is a lot like those movies and TV shows from the 1950s and 60s (mentioned in Tuesday’s fallout shelter post) that tended to “promise a post-conflagration scene that was clean and pretty, though much less crowded than what went before.” 

Granted, the fantasy of living in a watery, less crowded NYC does have a certain appeal—(like an early J.G. Ballard novel)—but isn’t that appeal fundamentally anti-social? When most all the competition has been conveniently eliminated, don’t we each imagine that, as a potential Adam or Eve, we might look a bit better to the opposite sex?

Do manufacturers entertain similar fantasies? In Diesel’s post-cataclysmic world, cool companies (like Diesel) have somehow survived to party on. One imagines they must have fewer customers in this less-populated, beach-party world, but doubtless they have fewer surviving competitors as well. (The ulimate “category disruption”)

Diesel, the fashion brand, now offers a fresh take on the specter of a globally warmed planet:

More beaches!

In print ads promoting its spring/summer collection, the Italian-based clothing company depicts landscapes that have been transformed by environmental disaster. The proud buildings of Manhattan and the presidential faces of Mount Rushmore are half-submerged in water from melted glaciers. Paris is a steamy jungle. Life looks pretty awesome, though. Diesel's models are dressed fashionably if barely (to accommodate the weather) and they lounge amid this hip dystopia in glamorous unconcern, fanning themselves or applying suntan lotion to one another's tawny backs.

High-Water Marketing: Climate-Change Clothes, a Little Smug on the Hip
Libby Copeland, Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, February 18, 2007

(More photos, video and article, after the fold…)


One thing I don’t get: if Deisel is prognosticating fashionably high sea levels for Manhattan, Rio and South Dakota, how is it that Venice is not deeply submerged?


More recently, Diesel has been focusing not on rising sea levels, but on high winds:

Inside Diesel’s interactive window, which was tied to its “Destroyed” jeans campaign, shoppers could control the weather via a video game that linked to the window set-up. The innovative display earned a first place award in this year’s VMSD International Visual Competition.

vmsd, July 2010

Note: this display also featured pestilence in the form of a mechanical rat. (See also Rat Bottles and End-of-History Squirrel Beer)

And on that note, “end-of-the-world week” comes to an end.)

Randy Ludacer
Beach Packaging Design


  1. cathya says

    The campaign treats global warming as a piece of science fiction – a Blade Runner-esque picture of a grim faraway future where the people are still beautiful and adventurous. Which tells me the creators of these ads consider global warming to be some sort of left wing hoax. I doubt the people crowded in Astrodome with ACTUAL weather-beaten jeans saw it as a fashion statement. Nor were flood victims stuck on rooftops rubbing sunscreen all over each others’ naked bodies. Next subject: “Genocide Ready” – fewer people, more room to party.

  2. says

    Did you plan to have a theme this week, or is that just where the current took you? It was like “Shark Week”, only with a-bombs and ozone depletion. Super-compelling.

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