Making your brand offensive, whilst risky and potentially alienating, can offer that standout that marketers are desperately looking for. Here we take a look at three brands that have worked hard to wind people up but still come out smelling of roses. Ryanair Cream of the controversy crop is arguably Ryanair whose marketing strategy soars high with hazy hullabaloo. Mass media is array with rumours of Ryanair’s quest to push the boundaries of “no thrills”, whether that be reports of mid-flight toilet charges, or making customers stand during flights, allowing them to make the initial cost of the flight cheaper. The philosophy of “all publicity is good publicity” is widely encouraged by chief executive Michael O'Leary, the man who’s view on passengers who arrive at airports without printed boarding passes "We think [they] should pay 60 euros for being so stupid." However more recently Ryanair seems to have taken a different route by demonstrating a bit more 'love' for their customer and increasing prices. Let's see which direction generates more profit.
GBK Vegetarians beware, this next controversial campaign may be tough to swallow. Gourmet Burger Kitchen have recently received a grilling after a string of print advertisements in London which were deemed offensive to the vegetarian/vegan community. These ads housing slogans such as “They (cows) eat grass, so you don’t have to” and “You always remember the time you gave up being vegetarian” were pulled after just two days following a flurry of complaints to the Advertising Standards Agency and via social media. The parody #gourmetmurderkitchen also started trending on Twitter. This risky strategy, although alienating to none meat eaters, caused a degree of humour within GBK’s true target audience of the carnivore community and could ultimately attract new chompers. It may be a generalisation to suggest vegetarians wouldn’t go to GBK but those of a beefy persuasion certainly account for the majority of their business. Which side of the bun do you sit on?
Get Unhooked Anti-smoking Ads The NHS went off piste here with their take on controversial advertising and certainly hit the headlines. This campaign aimed to shock the audience into action - stop smoking! The campaign in May 2007 fromthe Department of Health’s “Get unhooked” anti smoking ads aimed to encourage a smokey boycott through the power of graphic ads. Featuring in magazines, television, online and on massive 48 sheet outdoor, the ads speak for themselves and do it very well... The DoH reported the campaign was largely successful despite a large amount of complaints from parents who deemed the ad disturbing and traumatising to their children. This however could have allowed the ad to nail its original remit, as not only did it visually show the “hook” of the habit (albeit in a graphic way), it also potentially warned of the addiction to young observers, who if “traumatised” may avoid smoking all together!
Time will tell whether controversy is a sustainable strategy, however one thing that can’t be argued is that the accessibility of discussion across social media has amplified the importance word of mouth holds on a marketing campaign. Tommy’s Top Tip – Get Naughty, Get Noticed!