the rise of crappy marketing. and why it will only ever be crappy.
Tuesday, February 2, 2016
Darren Caveney in #susanalbumparty, 1996, cliff richards, comms2point0, gbk burgers, marketing, pr stunts, public relations, singing in the rain, the rise of crappy marketing. and why it will only ever be crappy, wimbledon

Crappy marketing. It's a mistake which has been around for a long, long time. But the growth in social media seems to have given us the opportunity to see even more of it.

by Darren Caveney

You might recall the recent outdoor advertising campaign by Gourmet Burger Kitchen which centred on taking the wotsit out of vegetarians – essentially, encouraging them to see the error of their ways and get back to a nice juicy meat burger.

One of the ads featured a cow chomping on some grass with the headline – “They eat grass so you don’t have to.”

Gourmet Burger Kitchen got a very predictable kicking on social media for the campaign.

Yet their marketing people claimed to have been “a bit taken aback by the response”, and then hurriedly pulled the campaign.

Taken aback - really?

No you weren’t, you big fibbers. You knew exactly what the response would be and that’s why you did it. It was planned that way to get lots of coverage through the mild furore it would spark. Yes?

Or, if you really, really didn’t expect the response you got then need to take a long, hard look at your career choices because it was a seriously foreseeable outcome.

The campaign - we now learn - generated more positivity than negativity, according to this latest research featured in The Drum. And of course, that is often the way with these things.

But what about the longer term reputational damage to the brand? It might be difficult to nail right now in terms of hard evidence and sales figures but I’m sure the campaign will have lost them some of their old customers too (which includes me and my clan - and my kids eat a lot so that probably warrants a profits warning to the City in itself)

And exactly how many genuinely new customers might the campaign attract to their restaurants? Again, hard to quantify at this point but I’d be amazed if it reaped them a heap of new customers liking the cut of their jib.

All in this campaign lacked class. It’s not exactly going to have protesters demonstrating outside their restaurants but it was, well, low rent, naff and misjudged. Choose any descriptors you like from a long list of negatives.

But that’s just my view and, of course - you may have liked the campaign. Lots of people may have. But it isn’t one I would like to showcase at a job interview or credentials pitch.

These campaigns - designed to deliberately hack off a group of the population - bother me. They do a disservice to our marketing and communications industry and the people who work in it. It perpetuates negative perceptions of us.  

The rise of these campaigns has grown and grown with the explosion of social media over the past decade. Social, in a way, has made it easier for us to deliver rubbish marketing.

Similar - but PR-led rather than marketing - is the classic ‘PR stunt’.

Now there are many examples of where PR stunts have worked a treat. But those which did have generally been a bit cleverer, better thought through, with a bit of wit about them. Nicely judged and well delivered so that you’re initially left thinking it was funny. And then pondering on whether the PR people had meant it or not.

Here’s two which spring to mind – you decide whether they were planned stunts, or innocent ‘happenings’…

Who could forget the awfulness of Cliff Richards’ ‘impromptu’ sing song at Wimbledon in 1996 when a heavy downpour drenched SW19.

An absolute unplanned event where Cliffy just wanted to entertain folks?

Or was it all pre-planned by his PR company, in the event of a far from unusual rain delay?

A tour with the just reformed Shadows followed two months later… 

But don’t let me sway you - that must have just been a coincidence. Thank goodness Wimbledon has invested in a roof over centre court since so he’ll not be called into duty again. (Maybe that’s why they added the roof)

The #susanalbumparty social media campaign was a classic of this genre.

Was that a genuine mistake? Or was it planned? You decide.

If planned, it was quite brilliant, and generated phenomenal chat across social and an ocean of media coverage for Ms Boyle.

But back to GBK – forget the crass marketing stunts. Your staff were always really nice when we visited so do something more befitting of them, eh.

And if you want to see how a smart restaurant promotes their meat, fish and veggie fodder in a classy and engaging way get yourselves across to @LeonRestaurants and check out some real pros at work.

Mine’s a fish finger wrap, please.

Darren Caveney is co-creator of comms2point0 and a creative communications specialist

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