Jihee Junn writes for The Spinoff
That poop-inspired kids' clothing brand you keep seeing everywhere? Turns out it's a viral marketing stunt.
On Sunday, scrolling through Instagram as you do, I came across a sponsored post for a brand called Fe-Cál Kids. The post featured a photo of a little girl in a colourful short dress with the caption "the latest in grubby little monster-wear".
At first, the post seemed benign enough. But all across social media, alarm bells quickly started ringing.
Firstly: the name. Fe-Cál Kids? That fancy "French" spelling wasn't fooling anyone. Fe-Cál is fecal and fecal is poop. Who in their right mind would name their company after that?
A quick search on the companies register shows no such business under the name.
Secondly: the clothes. Look closer at the rainbow coloured dress the little girl is wearing and you realise those aren't dots or squares or some trendy stained glass window pattern, but cells. Fecal cells. E Coli cells.
And the poop pattern doesn't stop there: go to Fe-Cál's flashy, interactive website and its also got shorts, shirts, jumpers, and skirts all covered with the offending pattern.
"Intriguing name!" wrote one commenter on Fe-Cál's Facebook page. "Shit kids?" another asks more frankly. On its first-ever Instagram post which dates back to less than a week ago, a user asks: "Did anyone tell you that fecal was a weird name for a business?"
Surprisingly, Fe-Cál responds: "We understand it's a bit different. When pronounced correctly, our name reads as fi-carl. Stay tuned for more details about our brand, and what we stand for."
To make things even more intriguing, Fe-Cál has even enlisted the help of social media influencers Zoe Fuimaono and Rebecca Keil who uploaded sponsored Instagram posts and stories of their young children wearing Fe-Cál's wares, to which many of their followers asked: this is a joke, right?
But if this is a joke, who's behind it? A troll? A prankster? Jono and Ben?
Turns out, the proof is in the HTML code.
Right-click and select 'View page source' on Fe-Cál's website and there's a single line with the words "Dettol" and "FCB".
Dettol is an antiseptic brand known for making hand sanitisers, soaps, and antibacterial wipes.
FCB meanwhile is a global marketing communications agency whose local arm operates as one of the biggest agencies in New Zealand. Furthermore, several users noticed that those who "liked" Fe-Cál's posts of Facebook worked for consumer goods multinational Reckitt Benckiser, aka parent company of Dettol.
So what does Dettol NZ have to say about all this? When contacted via Facebook, Dettol advised I get in touch directly with the email address firstname.lastname@example.org.
When pressed for confirmation of its involvement in Fe-Cál kids, Dettol simply replied: "Exclusive?"
FCB and influencers Fuimaono and Keil have all been contacted for comment.
UPDATE: 'Fe-Cál Kids' has now been publically confirmed as a hoax marketing campaign for Dettol laundry sanitiser. Fuimaono and Keil have also confirmed they had prior knowledge of the hoax via Instagram stories.