Wednesday 7th August, 2013

Marmite’s Stroke of PR Genius

We can all take a really positive lesson from this.
If you’re unfamiliar with Marmite, it’s basically a beefy spread that some people like and other people don’t like.

Some years back, Marmite bravely capitalised on the love/hate for the sticky brown stuff with a series of commercials that celebrated the ‘we’re not for everyone’ angle that business gurus insist is the right way to market just about anything (they call it ‘niche marketing’).

This week, Marmite has once again played an absolute blinder.

Capturing the zeitgeist (for the rash of animal welfare docusoaps and ads that are never absent from our TV screens) they created an ad that spoofs an animal rescue scenario, replacing a maltreated dog or cat with a jar of Marmite.

As if this single stroke of genius was impressive enough, what Marmite did next really did hit the ball out of the park…

The media don’t write stories about good advertisements.

They’re not allowed to.

Especially when that media is the license fee-funded BBC.

But what the media will report on is complaints.

So when lots of people (I say lots, it was only a couple of hundred to start with and that’s not lots) allegedly complained to the ASA about the Marmite ad being in poor taste (ha!), the press suddenly declared the ad newsworthy.

The result? Millions of people who didn’t know about the Marmite ad before certainly do now (it’s trending on Twitter and features on the BBC News homepage as I type). What’s more, legions of people like me who can’t stand the stuff are talking and writing about it (damn you, Marmite, damn you!).

Pause and reflect, for this is true genius at work.

I used to be a public relations director. I know how PR works and I have my suspicions about the origins of some of these alleged ‘complaints’. I suspect this is simply a genius act of PR.

So think… the next time you’re coming up with ideas for a presentation ask yourself this: can you – DARE YOU – take a leaf from Marmite’s book and subvert your message to get even more people talking about it?

This is exactly what all great campaigners do.

If you want to spread the good word on an issue, chances are that by telling it straight you will only ever reach those people who were already on your side, and maybe a few more. But create a bit of controversy around your message and who knows where it may reach.

It takes bravery to do this.

I don’t doubt for a moment that there are marketing managers and directors responsible for signing off the Marmite campaign who have broken into a sweat today. But fortune truly does favour the brave.

So. Are you brave enough? Will your next talk be a safe, linear people-pleaser? Or do you dare to subvert your topic and risk causing offence in the name of bringing the world’s attention to your message?

p.s. At the end of the ad viewers are encouraged to search Google for ‘Marmite neglect’. Doing so takes them to a campaign website where supporters are told how they can help prevent ‘Marmite neglect’ by sharing the link to the video via social media and signing up to receive a supporters ‘re-homing’ pack (containing a sample of the revolting substance) which can be sent either to them or to a nominated friend. How very clever.

I would have liked the campaign to be a little more playful by encouraging the public to report instances of Marmite neglect by calling a confidential helpline… only to hear an amusing recorded message or call to action down the phoneline. But that’s me, and I’m naughty like that.

UPDATE 16 August 2013… NOW LOOK WHAT THEY’VE DONE! (Thanks to Spencer Gasson for spotting this on Marmite’s Facebook page).



Categories: Article, Big ideas

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