There’s a old marketing axiom that advertising’s greatest enemy isn’t rejection; it’s indifference. Mountain Dew and Hyundai both tested this philosophy in the last two weeks with ads they ultimately pulled for being too offensive.
In today’s social media world, where there’s no longer a captive audience, brands are pushing boundaries more than ever to get attention (and to try to go viral). The question for marketers is where to draw the line.
Mountain Dew’s ad was not only criticized for trivializing battered women, it was called the “most racist commercial in history”. Hyundai’s ad showed a man trying to commit suicide by taping a hose to his car exhaust, only to be thwarted by the clean emissions technology in the Hyundai iX35.
In the pursuit of going viral, where should marketers draw the line? Is there a long-term cost for getting it wrong and offending your audience?
In the post-game analysis, many commentators suggested that it didn’t matter that Mountain Dew and Hyundai offended its audience. They argued that the benefit of getting talked about by media and consumers outweighed the fact that so many were talking about the brands’ bad judgement.
I disagree. Not every brand should act like a shock jock. Not all publicity is good publicity. Not all viral is good viral.
It all comes down to brand purpose. Axe/Lynx will draw a different line than Dove, even though they’re part of the same company. I think marketing can be provocative while still holding true to the brand’s purpose.
No brand wants to be ignored. But I think marketers sometimes forget whey their brands exist, and who they’re trying to serve.
(Marketoonist Monday: I’m giving away a signed print of this week’s cartoon. Just share an insightful comment to this week’s post. I’ll pick one comment at 5:00 PST on Monday. Thanks!)