In an earlier post, I mentioned the way that advertisers are using bikes to sell other non-bike products. Elly Blue at Taking the Lane calls this “bikewashing.” Though it can be a bit irritating sometimes (to me, especially when bikes are used to sell cars), it’s actually probably a good thing. It indicates bicycling has positive associations.
Last night I came across a bikewashing example from a Coca-Cola can (images above and below.) It’s disappointing to me some of the messages that Coke is sending. Coke as a product is, of course, a thing of very little utility or health value. Coke is a corporation that has quite a bit of corporate malfeasance on its hands – from water privatization to anti-union activity. Drinking plenty of sugary soda makes folks overweight and unhealthy, so Coke wants to appear healthy and to be associated with things that enhance fitness: bikes. To me it’s irritating that they’re using a bike on top of a car, associating the health value of bicycling with the sort of bike rides where one straps a bike on top of a car. It’s not bicycling as an everyday mode of transportation.
Minutia Department: The image on the Coke can is a bit odd. When I looked at it closely, I noticed that there are two different kinds of bicycles atop the car. The one on the left is a road bike, with typical ten-speed drop handlebars. The one on the right is probably a mountain bike, with straighter handlebars and a tighter frame. Apparently this freedom that Coke wants you to think that you can drive to requires two different bikes. Or maybe that car belongs to a couple that takes their bikes on vacation, then doesn’t bike together when they arrive. Or maybe the graphic designer was just copying some varied source material that she/he wasn’t all that familiar with. (I’ve done that before.) Who knows?
Joe’s note to greenwashers: don’t assume I need a car to enjoy the awesomeness of bicycling. The best vacations and bike trips don’t start behind the wheel of a car. For one example, read this.
What bikewashing have you encountered lately? What do you think of it? What implications do you see in examples you come across daily?