Plastic sucks, and we have to do better.
Canada is planning to decrease their environmental footprint by proposing a ban on single use plastics in 2021. But, some serious work needs to be done in the meantime. That’s what David Lee Kwen of East West Market in Vancouver noticed too.
Many grocery stores across North America charge for plastic grocery bags, but Kwen took this one step further in an effort to deter their usage. He commissioned a graphic designer to revamp his retail packaging design with embarrassing sayings like “Dr. Toew’s Wart Ointment Wholesale” and “Into the Weird Adult Video Emporium,” ideally dissuading customers from buying them instead of blatantly telling people not to use plastic bags. As a rule of thumb, people don’t like being told what to do. So Kwen took this to heart, and ensured his marketing campaign wasn’t pedantic. Instead, he used comical creative graphic design as a vehicle for promoting environmental awareness. An interesting version of the carrot-and-stick approach. Kinda like “Don’t buy the bags!” but also “Look how cool our bags are, buy our products!”
Instagrammers and Tweeters got word of the limited edition baggies, and demand for them went up. Now, people were coming to his store specifically to buy his plastic bags. The curse of great package design.
Did Kwen’s initial plan backfire?
Yes and no. At face value, this campaign was meant to deter overall usage of plastic bags, but did not necessarily do so. However, Kwen made the point that these bags sparked conversation. Customers will inevitably have to explain the origins of its existence to their friends, thus spreading awareness of the cause. Moreover, East West Market’s name is out in mainstream media. They created a viral campaign and Kwen is now going to transfer his custom print designs with quirky sayings to canvas totes. So, he has now also brought a new product to the market and associated his business with eco-consciousness.