The news that Lean Mean Fighting Machine has lost the Coca Cola account after it’s Dr Pepper social media marketing campaign put a reference to “2 girls one cup” (I won’t put a link to that here!) on the Facebook page of a 14 year-old girl shows the pitfalls of a medium where the brand owner loses a certain amount of control in the direction that a campaign can take.
Before the days of interactive marketing, a brand would commission its agency to produce work that was carefully monitored and signed off at every stage and then released to the world. There would be the occasional blunder – anyone remember the Hoover Airmiles sales promotion offer during the recession of the early nineties? – but on the whole, it was the brand rather than the agency that was holding the reins.
Whilst the development of technology has allowed brands to communicate with consumers in exciting new ways and at relatively low cost, the sheer speed and scale at which these campaigns can gather pace (and notoriety) shows how the brand can go from hero to villain in an instant.
Agencies know that they sometimes need to push the boundaries to give the brands they represent the edge over competitors but, as LMFM found out to their cost, it can be a very fine line between what the intended target audience, people outside this (as was the case here) and the brand owners themselves find humours or horrific.
How ironic the old Dr Pepper slogan of “so misunderstood” must seem now – but maybe not so much as “What’s the worst that could happen?”… Well, you could lose a multi-million pound account.