Published: 07/10/2014 | AUTHOR: Michael Cavanagh
Oscar Wilde once said that the only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about. These days, a brand can very quickly find itself a topic of discussion on social media, traditional media and around the office watercooler, particularly if something has gone wrong.
Put simply, avoiding PR and marketing mishaps is definitely a good thing. But are there ever occasions when some form of redeeming feature can come out of what’s seemingly a disaster? A couple of recent examples show that perhaps there are positives to be taken from in amongst the negatives and that sometimes those marketing malfunctions aren’t always what they seem.
First up, it’s John Lewis boss Andy Street, who chose to label an entire country – France – as “sclerotic, hopeless and downbeat” and a place where “nothing works and worse, nobody cares about it.”
Street’s comments ensured coverage on both sides of the Channel, with commentators noting that John Lewis is currently planning to open a new, foreign language version of its website, with that language just happening to be French.
It’s safe to say that insulting your future market might not be the best move but what’s undeniable is the fact that a lot more people in a country of 66 million now know they’ll soon be able to go online and buy John Lewis products more easily.
While John Lewis can take that as a positive, are some brands now taking things a step further and deliberately putting their feet in it for the sake of extra exposure?
Following the result of the Scottish Independence Referendum, Made.com, the online furniture company, sent out a marketing email stating that it had launched in a new country – Scotland. The slight problem with that was that Scotland had voted “no” and wasn’t in fact a new country.
Social media mockery began almost instantly and before too long the company had fired out another email, saying that the initial one had been sent in error. Instead, they were delighted to mark the “no” vote with a £10 voucher to spend on various items of soft furnishings, most of which had assorted Union Jack designs plastered all over them.
Many people simply saw all this as an “epic marketing fail.” But others weren’t so sure – and it turned out they were right. A statement from Made.com later admitted: “…you guessed it – our emails this morning were deliberate.” The end result? Well, amongst other things, increased visitors to their website and a big boost in brand exposure.
Steering clear of PR pitfalls and marketing malfunctions is highly recommended. But it appears that dropping a clanger might, in certain circumstances, not necessarily be bad news – and doing so deliberately might just be a tactic we need to keep more of an eye on.