Sonoo Singh’s article, Brands that like to flash their knickers (MW June 17), detailed some of the pitfalls that befall shock campaigns, such as Barnardo’s now notorious “baby with cockroach”.
Shock tactics are nothing new – and the right to push boundaries should be open to all trying to deliver a message in a crowded market.
But the failure or success of these campaigns surely lies principally in whether they support brand values, and provide strong visual links – brand icons – to trigger recall of the brand (rather than just the ad).
Crucially, shock tactics have to ring true with the consumer experience and expectation of a brand. If they are purely one-off attention-seekers, delivered to create short-term noise and enhance the creative credentials of the ad agency, there may be negative consequences for the long-term health of the brand.
Marmite recently used an actively divisive campaign – Love It or Hate It – which unashamedly used provocation to polarise consumers. What the creative team had tapped into was a campaign that made explicit previously unacknowledged consumer reactions to this brand – and was brave enough to be bold and funny about it.
Marmite’s campaign had a fresh perspective that rings true – because it builds on a real understanding of the brand and has a credibility and a power that shock for the sake of shock could never achieve.