Behind Wagamama's sustainable push centred on a vengeful vegan rubbery Godzilla

Vegamama features a colossal rubber dinosaur who’s angry at the state of our world
Vegamama features a colossal rubber dinosaur who’s angry at the state of our world

While sustainability comms often rely on doom-mongering tactics, Wagamama enlisted the help of Uncommon to deploy some humour to highlight the fact that it is the first high street brand to make half its products plant-based.

In Japanese mythology, Kaijus are mythical creatures that enact vengeance on humankind, so in the face of the climate crisis, it makes perfect sense that a wrathful, rubbery hellbeast would want to stomp on the human race because of its destructive ways. 

“We liked the idea of Vegamama emerging from the earth as a response to mankind’s terrible ways – she’s the world's biggest, greenest, most pissed off vegan, and she’s here to lay waste to polluters, oil rigs and factories,” shares Tom Houser, creative director at Uncommon, on the thinking behind “Vegamama”, Wagamama’s campaign using humour to promote its sustainability credentials. 

While sustainability comms often rely on doom-mongering tactics causing eco-anxiety, when Wagamama asked Uncommon to promote the fact it is the first national chain to make half of its menu plant-based, the team were confident that humour would be the right approach.  

“It’s great that the climate crisis is out there in culture as something that’s talked about,” explains creative director Christopher Keatinge, who together with Houser has worked extensively on green-focused brands at Uncommon. “For decades it wasn’t. But that makes it harder to say something new or in a new way.”  

They argue that while sincerity can be good, sincerity is also the norm. And so standing out can be hard. “Sometimes, you just have to embrace silly,” Keatinge insists. “Eating a plant-based diet is a powerful way to help the planet, but it has a soft, kale-filled image that’s hard to get excited about.” Hence the “bonkerness” of Vegamama.

They point out that the Godzilla spoof is well-worn territory. Determined to give the iconic hellbeast a new look, Uncommon worked with Vedran Rupic at Riff Raff, who brought his trademark surreal, Scandi humour and took it somewhere new.  

“There have been plenty of Kaiju-inspired ads before and we didn’t want to make another, which is why we wanted to work with Vedran,” Houser says. “His vision is always off-kilter and totally unexpected."

Houser and Keatinge detail how after initially concepting Vegamama using Photoshop, the rubbery suit was modelled in 3D and clay, before being brought to life using foam, latex and sophisticated animatronics, which gave her the ability to move her face and eyes. 

The body was then sprayed with latex and sculpted foam to get the authentic Kaiju texture. After the whole body was assembled, Vegamama was meticulously spray-painted.

With half of its product range now plant-based, Wagamama has set a historic precedent for high street brands, as businesses look to make themselves more sustainable ahead of COP26. “We believe eating more plants collectively is an essential in the roadmap to a more sustainable future,” explains Kay Bartlett, customer director at Wagamama. 

“By offering plant-based options, the reception from our teams and guests has been massively encouraging. As we kept bringing out more vegan options, demand responded and increased and now 50% of our menu is plant-based.”

She explains that the TV advert was simply intended to make people think more about what they are eating, which coupled with plant-based food might entice even the most uncompromising meat-eater to give plants a go every now and again. 

“Sustainability is a multi-layered and complex subject, and our strategy needed to match that. While plant-based food innovation is a key element of the broader picture, brilliant traction was gained when we placed our efforts and drove positive action in a multitude of projects at one time,” Bartlett explains.

“This is why we have a dedicated team working on carbon output, single-use plastic, plate waste and renewable energy to name a few projects. And, by no means have we reached our final destination. But we’re committed to making choices big and small as a business to tread more lightly on the earth.”

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