Negative (or seemingly negative) stories always seem to have the best reactions; the outrage often leads to thousands tweeting about said story on social media and the hubbub attracts the attention of journalists from a myriad of publications.
With this in mind, brands do not always play it safe, instead choosing to ruffle a few feathers with their digital PR campaigns, actively ostracising groups to get people talking (or arguing) and wringing their hands evilly as they watch the chaos unfold. Let’s take a look at some of the most memorable (and infamous) examples…
BrewDog ‘Beer For Girls’
Last year BrewDog, who have had some excellent coverage in the past for their also-arguably controversial campaign “A Pint-Sized Protest”(picture a dwarf outside Westminster protesting beer related laws and you wouldn’t be far off), amongst other eyebrow-raising stunts, decided to turn their beer pink and state that they created it especially for girls.
The announcement came right before International Women’s Day and they claimed that they made the intentionally-satirical-move as a way of addressing the gender pay gap in the UK. However, those with any semblance of marketing know-how can presume that this claim is complete tosh.
The company released images of the Pink IPA on their twitter channels with the caption:
“We’ve created a beer for girls. And it’s pink. Because women only like pink and glitter, right? #Sarcasm”
And the outrage ensued. Even though the brand pledged to sell these arguable sexist beverages to women a fifth cheaper than they would men to highlight the gender pay gap, people were not pleased. The original tweet received thousands of interactions and gained coverage and links on a multitude of different publications including The Drum, Telegraph, The Independent, Guardian and Indy100, boosting the companies SEO.
Yorkie ‘Not For Girls’
It would seem that brands just can’t get enough of ostracising us lovely ladies, with Yorkie’s classic ‘not for girls’ campaign coming next on the list.
The slogan, which many still associate with the brand to this day even though they stopped using it in 2012, made quite the stir in 2003 at launch, even causing offended consumers to create petitions on Change.org.
The campaign choice arguably would not have lasted nine years if it launched today and it was a bold (and deliberate) move which gained media attention way back when and continues to do so now.
McCoy’s ‘Man Crisps’
Brands know exactly how to gender foods and annoy the masses and McCoys are no different. Much like Yorkie’s tagline, McCoy’s crisps released a series of adverts in the mid-2000s that stated their crisps were ‘Man Crisps’, publicly suggesting that they are just too manly for women’s dainty fingers and the flavour too strong for their girlish mouths.
A ridiculous campaign that did exactly what they wanted it to do; much like Yorkie they gained the attention of the media and masses and the slogan is still remembered today.
A dating site literally created to be controversial, BeautifulPeople never shys away from a negative headline; instead embracing it with open arms.
The site, which has rejected over 9 million people who they deem ‘not worthy’ based on looks, exists just to cause outrage, drum up media coverage (which it has succeeded in doing so on sites like the Daily Mail, The Guardian and WIRED) and make those who do not meet their criteria feel like crap.
If you’ve ever wanted some random plastic surgeon to point out your flaws and why you will likely be single forever, definitely check this marketing wet dream out.
Skinnypigs banner placement
Accidentally misplaced banner? Sure Skinnypigs team, we know your game. This fitness brand hung up a straight-to-the-point poster which read:
“CAUTION: Skinnypigs will make you look better naked!”
Seems harmless right? Well the advert itself didn’t cause a stir itself but it was the placement of said banner that really peeved off the public. The Skinnypigs team popped it right outside a school.
What element of totally inappropriate shall we say about this @SkinnypigsUKjQuery1102008603451950811691_1547146400490 Put up outside a school?! Come on!! pic.twitter.com/ugD5QRP7Yi
— heather peacock (@heatherpea) October 17, 2017
This placement caused pretty much every media publication to cover the story and hundreds of outraged internet users to voice their thoughts.
You could argue that the team were not aware of what they were doing but with their replies to outraged comments stirring the pot even further by suggesting that “the people making these absurd comments don't attend our incredible classes hence they are so darn angry with life!”, we presume they just played the game perfectly.
Carlton & United Breweries‘Unexpected Ginger’
An Australian beer company caused quite the stir last year as they totally unintentionally offended redheads (as a redhead I take full offence).
Carlton & United Breweries (CUB) ‘Unexpected Ginger’ campaign was created in February of last year for their Rusty Yak Ginger Ale and saw an ad call for their consumers to ‘stop the spread of the gene’ by hunting for bottles marked with ‘ginger gene’ labels.
A tongue-in-cheek campaign which CUB intended to be light-hearted but certainly did ruffle feathers as they would have expected. Even though the ad was banned in the end, it certainly made up for it in coverage.
Pritt Stick ‘Just 4 Girls’
It isn’t just food brands that launched just for girls products to gain media traction, Pritt Stick decided they wanted to get in on the action back in 2014, releasing a beautiful pink glue stick with “Just 4 Girls!” plastered on the packaging.
As predicted, journalists did not take well to the suggestion that the regular Pritt Sitcks aren’t suitable for women’s hands and covered the story eagerly, sharing their outrage with the world and getting everyone and their dog to talk about the arts and crafts company.
Bic‘Think Like A Man’
On Women’s Day in 2015, Bic joined Pritt Stick in their ‘tone deaf’ digital marketing campaign and released an image of a powerful-looking business woman on their Facebook page with the caption “Look like a girl, act like a lady, think like a man, work like a boss. #HappyWomensDay.”
As you can probably guess, the ‘think like a man’ had the backlash rolling in thick and fast, with followers writing comments like: “If it’s quite alright with you, Bic, I’ll look like a woman, act like a woman, think like a woman, and work like a woman. And you can f*ck right off like an idiot.”
This wasn’t Bic’s only marketing ‘blunder’, with the company also going on to release ‘pretty pink pens’ just for us ladies back in 2012.
Not every blunder made by brands is intentional, but sometimes winding people up about serious subjects can be a good way of generating links, improving your search engine optimisation(SEO) and getting people talking about your brand. If you’re brave enough and do not mind hateful comments directed at your company, it could be something worth considering.