Should Your Brand Use Controversial Marketing? 10 Examples to Help You Decide

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At first of 2019, people were tweeting pictures of razors submerged at the bottom of their toilet bowls. No, this wasn’t the wacky teen challenge to create dads late for function. It was a protest towards Gillette’s latest advertisement, one that confronts toxic masculinity.

Brand names that craft controversial commercials like Gillette’s, however , anticipate this type of response, at least from some people. Taking any kind of stance on potentially sensitive interpersonal issues tends to lead to some type of disagreement.

But authentically advocating for the causes you really believe in usually has more pros than cons.

“Even if publicizing your beliefs might ostracize some potential customers, additionally, it builds deep loyalty for individuals who share your values — particularly values like celebrating equality and inclusion, which many people support, regardless of political affiliation, ” Joe Lazauskas, the Head of Content Technique at Contently, wrote in an article after the divisive 2016 presidential election. “The same goes for expressing concern and support for the diverse those who work for you. Loyalty isn’t just a marketing metric; it’s furthermore critical for measuring the internal wellness of your company. ”

Executed properly and from a host to genuine support, controversial ads can be an unexpected, emotional pleasure that can not only deepen your own connection with your core audience, but can also help you achieve new audiences. For instance, after Gillette released their advertisement challenging toxic masculinity, Adweek discovered the campaign really resonated with women one of the most.

The Psychology At the rear of Controversial Advertising

People usually read and share opinionated articles because it aligns with their own values. And by letting the entire world know about their beliefs, they could solidify an ideal image of on their own within their social circle plus their own minds.

Opinionated content material also has a knack to make people think and consider other points of look at, which builds more devoted audiences because it can teach people something new and help form their perspective on lifetime.

But while controversial ads can generate more buzz than other types of advertisements, if executed poorly or in a merely performative way, they can be detrimental to your brand name. For instance, consider SNL’s hilarious skit of ad executives pitching commercial ideas to the snack brand Cheetos.

Even though SNL isn’t specifically offering controversial advertising a ribbing, they’re poking fun in the way brands exploit sensitive social issues to peddle their products instead of what they needs to be doing when covering these kinds of topics — encouraging productive conversations.

Creating a controversial advertisement with a merely commercial purpose is a one way ticket to getting Kendall Jenner & Pepsi type of feedback (we’ll cover this later). In other words, it can spark harsh backlash plus bad publicity instead of significant dialogue.

So how do you prevent this type of negative response if it is a controversial advertising campaign? Beneath, we’ll analyze three controversial advertising examples that work and two that don’t to assist you support the causes you sincerely believe in and better interact with audiences.

Controversial Advertising Examples That Work

1 . Anheuser-Busch | Born The Hard Way

Anheuser-Busch’s ad about their founder’s origin story makes individuals realize that something so fundamentally American, like Budweiser beer, can have immigrant roots.

Budweiser is commonly associated with themes associated with American patriotism, so having a stance on immigration, which is a controversial issue in the United States, conflicted with some of the brand’s most loyal customers’ political values. But taking this social stance also led to the meaningful dialogue about how immigrants have founded some of America’s most iconic brands.

Simply by telling a gripping and emotional story about the founding of their company, Anheuser-Busch could take a stance on an essential issue that’s essential to their own brand and connect with the folks who understand that the United States will be country of immigrants, helping the ad garner more than 21. 7 million sights in only three days.

2 . Nike | Dream Insane

“Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything” is an accurate life motto to get Colin Kaepernick, a professional American football player.   In the 2016 NFL season, he or she stoked controversy by kneeling during the National Anthem prior to the start of every game like a protest against racial inequality.

Unfortunately, all the controversy connected with him has basically banned him from the NFL — no team hasn’t signed him since his questionable 2016 season. Yet, very well, he still advocates for that causes he supported during his protests.

Along with Kaepernick’s story, Nike’s “Dream Crazy” weaves in other narratives of athletes who followed dedicated dreams to eventual achievement. And Nike made it obvious that they want to help Colin Kaepernick achieve his dream of a righteous world, no matter how crazy it seems right now.

“Dream Crazy”, while highly questionable, resonated with millions of people. Simply days after they released the particular ad, Nike’s sales soared by 31%, despite movies of their gear engulfed within flames circulating throughout social media marketing.

3. Heineken | Worlds Apart

In Heineken’s “Worlds Apart”, people were paired collectively and asked to build stools and a bar together. After they completed the activity and developed some rapport with each other, pre-recorded videos starting playing and revealed that their politics views were actually the particular polar opposite of each others. They were then asked if they would discuss their distinctions over a beer. All of them mentioned a resounding “yes”.

Making an ad where people with such differing political views actually engage in meaningful conversation and don’t just belittle each other is a risky shift. A lot of people have a fiery interest for their political beliefs and won’t associate with people who don’t agree with them. But that’s ultimately why Worlds Aside was met with great reviews and called “The Antidote to Pepsi’s Kendall Jenner Ad” — it focuses on putting our variations aside to work for a greater cause together, not Heineken’s product.

4. Burger King | Whopper Neutrality

Net neutrality regulation was repealed in the United States in 2018. Leading up to this decision, many Americans debated whether this would be a good or even bad thing, but many a lot more didn’t understand what the fuss was about.

Burger King aimed to explain and persuade with their “Whopper neutrality” analogy where customers pay a premium to get their food delivered fast.

Despite net neutrality being unimportant to burgers, the campaign resulted in $67 million in earned media and 3. 8% sales growth — while igniting conversations regarding the issue among everyday people plus celebrities alike.

5. Poo~Pourri | Girls Don’t Poop

It’s not every day you see a post where the protagonist is certainly sitting on the toilet. Culturally, going to the bathroom is an “inappropriate” or “crass” topic. Regardless of this, Poo~Pourri brings it front and center for their odor removal product.

Needless to say, this particular could’ve gone down poorly. Nevertheless , the comical dialogue, flawless production, and endearing relatability earned positive reactions through audiences. In fact , it was seen 17 million times in only a month.

6. Lane Bryant | #ThisBody

In 2016, Lane Bryant launched their particular #ThisBody campaign, promoting their own plus-sized clothing line along with radical body positivity. The ad features several plus-sized models declaring how they experience their bodies and what they can do in an effort to change cultural perception and make a stand towards body shaming. However , the ad was pulled by ABC and NBC to get showing “too much pores and skin. ” Critics claimed the particular ad was no more risque than other underwear advertisements.

The networks proposed to re-air the ad as soon as Lane Bryant made some minor edits, but the retailer declined, launching it on social networking instead where it received viral levels of positive engagement.

Controversial Advertising Examples That Don’t Work

1 . Soft drink | Live for Now

If you believe long and hard about it, could a can associated with Pepsi really mend the complex rifts that divide the entire world right now? Nope. Never. Even worse, is Kendall Jenner really an integral part of any social justice movement, or was she just there because she’s a famous superstar who can grab almost anyone’s attention? You probably know the response to this question by now.

Right after receiving five times as numerous downvotes as upvotes on YouTube and a glut of bad publicity and negative reactions on social media, Pepsi removed the ad from their funnel only a few hours after publishing it.

If you want to avoid this kind of response when creating controversial articles, don’t emphasize your product more than the issue at hand. Most of advertisements are technically self-serving, but people can spot overly promotional fluff masquerading as social justice quicker than they’ll click depart on a pop-up ad. So if you don’t truly feel  found guilty to support a specific social cause when creating controversial content, it’s best to not even put pen to paper.

2 . Wonder Mattress | Twin Systems

Labor Day, Veterans Day, and even Memorial Day are usually prime holidays for home furniture sales. However , San Antonia mattress company Miracle Bed mattress created a controversial video to advertise a September 11th purchase.

In the video meant to be a good edgy parody, two stacks of twin mattresses are toppled over, and the Magic Mattress employee says, “We will never forget. ”

The ad was seen as insensitive rather than provocative, making gentle of the lives lost upon September 11th. The company faced severe media backlash and closed its doors consequently.

3. Hyundai | Pipe Job

Speaking of, the whole goal of provocative narrative plus imagery is to prompt a good emotional response and, in essence, stand out.

Hyundai set out to do this when marketing their lowered emissions with the ad featuring an attempted suicide. The man featured in the ad was unable to consider his own life due to the wear out being made up primarily associated with harmless water vapor.

The ad was pulled after airing just for only a day, criticized to be disturbing at best and, at worst, mocking toward committing suicide attempt survivors and suicide loss survivors.

4. Countrywide | Boy

It starts out as an adorable story in regards to a boy who seems to lack self-confidence, but Nationwide’s “Boy” turns shockingly dark when it’s revealed that the main character can’t live an ordinary childhood because he’s in fact dead.

Child accidents really are a serious problem that should be resolved, but this ad has been criticized for being too fear-mongering and manipulative — this literally uses the demise of children to sell insurance.

Therefore even if your ad shows a prevalent problem, ensure it doesn’t exploit a potentially sensitive issue only to peddle more product. Or else, it might get crowned as the worst ad of the calendar year.

Editor’s note: This post was originally published within January 2019 and has already been updated for comprehensiveness.

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