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When Controversy Turns into Great Branding

It’s an interesting irony that human nature wants what they can’t have. A musician dies and instantly their last album from 5 years ago hits Number 1. A commercial gets banned by the censor or network and instantly everyone jumps on line to download the ad. It’s a curiosity that can be used to a sponsors advantage.

The latest TV Commercial that got chins wagging for a very intriguing reason, is the removal of the SodaStream commercial featuring Scarlet Johansson which was made specifically for this weeks Super Bowl.

SodaStream did not offend a minority group, did not contain explicit language, did not harm animals or display raunchy content – in fact the newly-crowned face of SodaStream, was dressed in a full length bathrobe and a tasteful black cocktail dress throughout the commercial. So what was all the fuss about that the advertisment was banned?

It’s simple, Scarlett mentioned the names ‘Coke’ and ‘Pepsi.’

Sodastream

This sent the networks into a frenzy of potential damage control with two of their biggest sponsors and paid advertisers being reprimanded for all the world to see.  The solution was simple, do not play the SodaStream commercial and everything will be okay. Coke and Pepsi will be happy.

Whilst this seemed to be the end of it, there was one underlying issue, the public loves seeing ‘controversial’ content. If you whisper the words the ‘banned’ or ‘axed’ people will gravitate towards it to see what all the fuss is about. This is exactly what happened to SodaStream with the ad accruing more than 1.6 million views since its release on YouTube Monday.

SEO of SodaStream, Daniel Birnbaum, was understandably not impressed with the removal of their big-budget advertisement from prime-time television because of the networks being ‘afraid’ of upsetting Coke and Pepsi. “What are they afraid of? Which advertiser in America doesn’t mention a competitor? This is the kind of stuff that happens in China. I’m disappointed as an American.”

Obviously the intense interest in the otherwise – very UN-controversial commercial would help to soften the blow. The publicity surrounding the ban of the commercial was huge. The combination of a Hollywood screen siren known for her voluptuous figure and carefully chosen screen shots with the title ‘Banned Commercial’ was an enormous draw card. The campaign has achieved what it set out to do, get SodaStream noticed and talked about.

Whether the tactic was deliberate, we as the public will never know and SodaStream will of course never openly reveal, but it worked. The controversy was subtle and not offensive (except to the networks sales teams) and it got everyone’s attention.

If you’re thinking of trying to get exposure for your brand through word-of-mouth viral campaigns, there can be a fine line between clever and offensive.  You don’t need a big budget to stir up interest and you also don’t need to end up in court for defamation if a competitor becomes a bit sensitive from being targeted.

Here’s a few tips to help get the chins wagging:

– Use a celebrity or local personality.

– Get a good tag line.

– Do not be rude or crude. It wont attract the right attention.

– Be novel and creative. You don’t have to make a commercial. Hand a bunch of T-shirts out, invest in some creative vehicle signage, get a huge logo painted on the local cricket oval, use your imagination!

–  Ensure your logo and business name can be easily read and identified.

– Have fun! Humour is the best way to sell by giving people that ‘feel good’ factor. They will want to share the message.

Contact Shared Marketing and let us create a strategy for you.