The Entrance and Exit of EcoKat

1 Sep

While you probably won’t ever catch me driving a Prius or a “smart car,” I am not opposed to conservation or recycling or generally being kinder to the environment. So when I heard about the Take Charge Challenge, a competition between Manhattan and Lawrence to see which city could save the most energy by switching light bulbs, installing different thermostats, doing home energy audits, etc., my reaction was one of indifference, at worst.

Then came “EcoKat.”

I wish I could say that if this creation had been marketed differently, the reaction would not have been so negative, but unfortunately, I don’t think that is the case. I’m not sure there is ever a scenario in which it is a good idea to invent a green-themed superhero to draw attention to a university’s efforts to be environmentally conscious.

But cross-marketing this with athletics by putting EcoKat with Willie the Wildcat made everything much, much worse, I think. The images of the two of them together made it seem like this new mascot would be featured in treasured events like football and basketball games, where it would represent the university.

And then, of course, there was the cringe-inducing video. (To salve the wound, though, check out Sam Mellinger’s story with embarrassing videos from other universities.) It has now been taken down from the university’s website.

Now, maybe, this was all a much more calculated ploy than we know. Maybe the overall effect of this whole fiasco will be to broadcast, nationwide, Kansas State’s commitment to being a sustainable campus. Unfortunately, though, it’s hard to see past the 90% recycled purple suit and big blond wig to that conclusion.

EcoKat has been put on the injured reserve, so to speak, for the time being. I’m interested to see whether she makes a comeback, but this is one time I am not optimistic.

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