The East West Market on Main St has taken a stand against climate change -- and it's funny AF.

Have you ever been to the Wart Ointment Wholesaler? How about the Weird Adult Video Emporium? Colon Care Co-op perhaps? No? Neither have the people who shop at East West Market without a reusable bag, but you wouldn’t know from looking at them.

East West Market owner David Lee Kwen has introduced a new method of battling climate change and it’s got people talking. Kwen has printed embarrassing messages on the plastic bags his market hands out to customers who didn’t bring a reusable cloth bag.

“The message is, we should make a conscious effort to save our planet one step at a time,” Kwen said. “[Plastic bags] are a big problem, and every step helps.”

East West Market is located on Main Street and King Edward Avenue and have been serving Vancouver since 1996. The grocery store specializes in gourmet goods and locally-sourced products, they have a vested interest in sustainability.

“So many people own reusable bags but forget to bring them,”  said Kwen. “We want to help customers remember their reusable bags in a way that will really stick with them.”

The bags are gaining attention after Global News covered the story. They’re well-received, fulfilling Kwen’s intent by starting a conversation around single-use plastic bags.

The ‘offensive’ plastic bags, whether Kwen intended this or not, also fulfil a marketing agenda that resonates with millennials and Gen Z. East West Market takes a clear stance on climate change and sustainability; the plastic bags are essentially a tactic to further that agenda and (intended or not) as a result, gain positive attention for the store.

Within these demographics, purpose marketing is typically well-received — when done authentically. When you think of purpose marketing, Colin Kaepernick in Nike’s Just Do It campaign comes to mind.

Nike addressed a social issue, chose a side, and took a stand using their platform and adding their voice to the conversation. It was done authentically and genuinely added to the conversation surrounding racial issues. On the other hand, Kendall Jenner’s Pepsi campaign capitalized on racial tensions and protest culture for the wrong reasons. The ad was flippant on a serious issue, created solely for marketing purposes, and the audience saw right through it. The campaign was met with distrust and criticism, hurting Pepsi’s image in the public eye.

When done right socially-inspired brand messaging can be very powerful. A Deloitte 2018 study saw 91% of millennial and Gen Zs stating they would change their brand loyalty for one championing a cause, seven out of ten said they would happily pay more for a product with a conscience, and many said they would not hesitate to drop a brand if they didn’t believe in their political values.

East West Market’s simple plastic bag campaign is a prime example of purpose marketing done right. As did Save-On-Food’s Bunches of Love campaign which selflessly championed women’s health care issues.

No matter how good the cause, how big the budget, or how much market research was done, if your purpose marketing campaign is for the sole purpose of driving a profit, people can tell.