Are we too easily offended or simply victims of bad marketing?


Posted by Jodie Houghton

Another day another distasteful ad gone viral. It’s certainly not a new tactic, in fact over the last year I have almost hardened to it, with every shocking headline I hear met by at least one “their PR company really knew what they were doing there!” or “their rankings will be going through the roof in no time!” But what about your average consumer? Does outrage marketing really work?

We’ll start with the most high profile case of outrage marketing we’ve seen this year, the Katie Hopkins of ad campaigns – yep you guessed it, Protein World! The marketing budget was set at £250,000 for their summer awareness campaign and the decision was made to spend it on advertising space on the London Underground. If like many other Protein World fans you have been too busy working on your beach body to keep up with the whole saga, the short story is that people were mad… Really mad. There were of course lots of people who saw nothing wrong with it, and people (mostly marketers) who admired the cunning thought behind the campaign. But it was the outrage that made this bit of marketing a resounding success. Protein World reported that in the two weeks since the campaign launched they gained 30,000 new customers and £2 million in incremental sales. Sure they made a lot of enemies along the way, but in their eyes they weren’t the target market anyway. It’s a big fat (not literally – did you not see the ad?!) win for Protein World!

Bic Marketing Campaign

Next up we have a campaign from Bic South Africa, the company that brought us “Bic for Her” pens only a few years ago are back and more offensive than ever with the Women’s Day ad they posted on social media. The “Act Like a Lady” and “Think Like a Man” lines went down just as you would imagine, terribly. Worst of all was yet to come, as Bic did the exact opposite of their outrage marketing predecessors Protein World, and issued a wishy washy apology, trying to shift the blame on to a blog they had taken the quote from. This caused yet more uproar, forcing them to quickly delete the apology to make room for something a bit more sincere. The result? This was definitely a loss for Bic. As an already established brand, Bic did not need this kind of publicity, seeing no surge in sales and another blow to their credibility as #BicFail dominated our newsfeeds.

Taste the Bush Marketing Campaign

Bringing us nicely on to the most recent case of outrage marketing, Premier Estates Wine, with their oh so subtle advertising campaign that asks us to #TasteTheBush. After extensive research many have uncovered the hidden meaning behind the campaign and the reaction has been a mixture of “are you serious?” and “yes I would indeed like to #TasteTheBush”. It’s only been a matter of days since the campaign went live and already it has started to gain media coverage after the Advertising Standards Authority revealed that they are investigating complaints. I would say it’s too soon to tell how this will pan out, but as someone who had never heard of Premier Estates Wines until I saw this ad shared on my Twitter feed by a disgruntled friend, I would say it is doing exactly what they intended – and that is to gain exposure through outrage marketing of course!

So does outrage marketing really work? Oh yes. As long as we have the ability to be outraged, and the platform to express that, outrage marketing will triumph whether we like it or not. But mostly not, because you know how this works by now.

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