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Good and Bad PR: Yankee Candle smells are a good COVID indicator but Shell stinks of greenwashing

Welcome back to another week of public relations hits and misses. As the UK economy teeters on the brink of survival it is hard not to fall into a pit of negative Government stories, but I am going to try and steer clear this week. Onwards we march.

Good PR

Yankee Candle

Yankee Candle gets the first Good PR of the week, or should it be Strange PR of the week. Stick with me on this. There has been a rise in negative reviews of the whiffy candle specialists on Amazon and a science boffin from Northeastern University in Massachusetts clocked that the rise in bad reviews is a strong Covid indicator.

The short version, Dr Nicholas Beauchamp from Team Science ‘Merica is now able to predict when Covid is spiking over there based on people moaning about the candles not having a strong enough scent. This is great PR for Yankee Candles. 1. It can cite that the negative reviews are all down to Covid and there is nothing wrong with its scents and 2. It has become one of the strangest barometers for Covid reporting since this pandemic began.

If I was the CEO of Yankee Candle, it would really get on my wick that the negative reviews were spiking. Sorry!


Given Amazon gets a mention in the first story, let’s give it a Good PR nod too for its announcement that it is unleashing 700 electric HGV vehicles into the UK to replace its more environment-damaging old fleet. This is part of a wider announcement that it is, in total, adding 1,500 e-HGVs to its overall European fleet.

Given that the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) says that there are currently only 313 e-lorries in the UK, the commitment by Amazon looks even more noteworthy, especially when you think that online retail has had a significant bump back down to pre-pandemic figures as consumers made a partial switch back to bricks and mortar shopping after Covid. Nice one Amazon.

Bad PR

Shell and British Cycling

Whilst Amazon talked publicly about its environmental credentials, Shell looked on from the audience and asked its mate, British Cycling, to hold its pint. British Cycling then dropped that pint and now it, and Shell, win the first Bad PR of the week.

In what has to be the best example of Greenwashing since that time I left a green football sock in with a white wash, Shell and British Cycling announced a partnership this week that triggered resignations, negative media debate and even a surfing organisation to say it was a crazy move.

Before British Cycling could say: “We have stopped dunking cormorants in oil” the announcement was getting panned and it does not take a genius to work out why. On one hand Shell is still spending big money on lobbying against certain global environmental initiatives, yet on the other hand it announces a sponsorship deal with the most environmentally friendly travel option (cycling) that there is.

I never thought I would ever, and I mean ever, find myself agreeing with the ‘make your own clothes and smell of biscuits’ brigade (yes, I have happened upon them in my career and it was an entirely unpleasant experience). So when Greenpeace policy director Dr Doug Parr said the following, I agreed so strongly that I had to check my temperature to make sure I was not falling victim to The ManFlu: “The idea of Shell helping British Cycling reach net zero is as absurd as beef farmers advising lettuce farmers on how to go vegan”.

UK strikes

Speaking of militant types, the UK strike scene is gaining global attention and whilst I am not sure Mick Lynch can run for President of ‘Merica alongside his, growing in popularity, UK Prime Ministerial campaign, his mantra is getting global awareness.

CNBC wrote a vaguely favourable (well, it wasn’t critical) review of the eventual results of the Liverpool dock workers going on strike. Why did they do this? Well, not only is Liverpool the number-one port for all goods coming from the USA, but also because some of the brands affected by the action are massive and this could have a knock-on effect to the American economy.

As we edge towards the biggest retail time of the year, brands like Abercrombie, Urban Outfitters, H&M and Burberry all have goods caught up in shipping container backlogs caused by the strike action.

I will give it another few weeks max before US senators with brands HQ’d in their states start trying to apply diplomat-based pressure on the UK Government to sort this situation out. This is exactly what we need, so soon after Liz Truss was told to get to the back of the queue for trade deals, another dispute that upsets our amazing friends over the pond.

Rather unusual Bad PR


Let’s end on some light-hearted Bad PR and Apple this week rose to ‘unwanted nanny-tech’ status thanks to a new feature on its iPhone 14 that was alerting the friends and family of people riding rollercoasters that they had potentially been in a crash. That’s right, the iPhone now picks up when you “jolt” dramatically and then thinks you have been the main star in an accident and contacts your nearest and dearest.

Whilst the technology has undoubtedly and very publicly (we know, thanks to the Apple PR machine) saved lives, the emergency services call handlers based near Kings Island amusement park (near Cincinnati) have had enough and publicly moaned about the number of automated calls it is receiving from Siri that it is duty bound to take seriously.

The emergency services say that it is becoming a drain on its resources, Apple says the technology will improve over time. In the meantime, the less athletic types like me are now nervous of taking an iPhone on our sporting endeavours in case our general lack of fitness triggers an ambulance and distressed family to be waiting for us upon our return.

Got it right or wrong? You know where to find me (not on a run!)

Written by Andy Barr, owner of 10 Yetis Digital. Seen any good or bad PR lately? Abuse and contradictory points welcomed over on The Twitter @10Yetis or on email

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