Outrage Marketing

The first time i saw THAT Dove commercial ,the question i asked myself was "HOW DID THIS END UP IN TV SCREENS WITHOUT ANYONE SEEING ANYTHING WRONG WITH IT!!??".I thought,Dove is a large multinational company with probably the smartest marketing brains at their disposal and you want to tell me that not even one of those people saw anything remotely wrong with that commercial?

Despite the outrage that erupted because of the Dove commercial,since then,there has been a multitude of other ads by big corporations which seem to purposely offend people. Even before Pepsi,as much as a decade ago,there were still companies rolling out distasteful commercials. At first i thought maybe it was just a "bad joke", something which someone in the marketing department thought was catchy and funny but did not translate the same way to the intended audience. But then i thought,for a small company putting out a seemingly ignorant commercial,one can attempt to understand because they probably have just John and Steven in the marketing department who are not  exactly experts in social justice issues like race and gender,but for big corporations like Dove,Pepsi,H&M,Gucci and a host of others who have put up offensive material who have entire departments and millions in budgets dedicated to getting marketing right,it makes no sense for them to not figure out that an ad is offensive and distasteful before it reaches the audience.

Although cases of offensive marketing campaigns go back all the way to more than a decade ago,social media is the reason there have been in the spotlight as of late with people "calling out" these brands for their campaigns.However,the funny thing is that,as more brands are shunned for this sort of marketing,cases of offensive marketing are shooting up instead of going down. Using common sense,one would think "ok,if company A gets called out for that,surely company B and C would definitely not think about putting out anything remotely similar to what company A put out", but it seems to be the reverse.Over the past 6 years or so,there has been multitudes of these offensive campaigns and the fact that social media justice campaigns have also been taking hold over the last 6 years or so too cannot be a coincidence.

Social media users are reactive and they are unapologetic in their re-activeness.When they come across something that does not sit well with them,they express their view on it and in my opinion,that is exactly what these big corporations capitalize on.Oscar Wilde once famously said "the only thing that is worse than being talked about is not being talked about" and i believe these corporations have this statement posted on their marketing departments walls as their mantra. These corporations are probably of the belief that there is no such thing as bad publicity and their year end financial statements probably affirm this notion. The minute they put up that offensive ad,people start talking and spreading word about not only the ad,but the corporation itself. Even people who previously knew nothing about H&M before the infamous "coolest monkey in the jungle" sweater fiasco now know who H&M are and that is a win for the company.Social media users may rebel and boycott the offending brand for a few weeks at most but,as with everything on social media,people forget and move on. The company then issues a little apology statement and retraction of the ad then goes back to enjoying their year end dividends.

One may question the ethical correctness of outrage marketing but the bottom-line is that it works for these big corporations and their accounts bottom-line can attest to that. They will keep putting out these offensive campaigns as long they keep getting a reaction every-time they do so. A reaction,if not done right,allows corporations to capitalize on all the follow up rage and turn it into profits.

Even if the audience knows that these corporations are using their concern for social issues as a catalyst for them accumulating profits,it gets tricky because the audience find themselves in a catch 22 situation.If they angrily react to the commercial,they are giving the corporation the attention they are looking for but then again if they do not react,it seems like they are letting the company get away with offensive and irresponsibly marketing.The only way to ensure that the corporations really get the message is to give them a reaction,but done right and the only way to do this is to hit them where it hurts the most,their pockets. If social media users decide to boycott a particular brand's products because of an ignorant commercial,let it it not be for a few days when the topic is trending then after that its back to buying from them. Boycott them for as long as it takes to seriously affect them financially then,and only then,will we see cases of distasteful commercials go down.

PS:When doing research for this blog post i came across this article which sheds more light into the workings of outrage marketing.