Don’t be afraid – the lessons to learn from brave brands

Many brands make brave campaign decisions. Sometimes these work a treat, and sometimes they’re the stuff of nightmares.

Whatever happens, we should applaud brands that take a step away from the safe zone and try something different. We can also learn valuable lessons from the risky marketing campaigns that missed the mark.

We take a look at brands that tried to be brave. Which clever campaigns worked a treat, and which turned into a PR nightmare?

Pepsi, meet Kendall Jenner

“Can a Black Lives Matter standoff be resolved by offering a police officer a can of Pepsi?”

“Of course! But only if Kendall Jenner gets involved.”

The ad was wrong on many levels, jumping on serious social issues to try and sell a product. This wasn’t a brave campaign – this was foolhardy. Perhaps a more light-hearted influencer social campaign would have been more effective.

BrewDog admits its mistakes

From launching a beer porn site to its epic International Women’s Day fail, it’s fair to say BrewDog has faced more than enough backlash for its shock tactic strategy.

However, by holding their hands up, BrewDog has indicated that change is on the way. Though determined not to lose its sense of humour, campaigns will be focused more heavily on what the business does best – making great craft beer.

Reviewing and learning from previous campaigns is particularly important, so round of applause to BrewDog for taking a brave stance on its future marketing strategies.

LADbible cuts through the banter

LADbible, as a brand, is all about having fun. It’s hardly known for being serious, but its recent U OK M8? campaign really struck a chord with its core young male demographic. The campaign encourages men to speak up about their feelings and seek help when they need it. A heartfelt, honest and authentic campaign that centred on the people LADbible cares about most – its audience.

It was a brave campaign that didn’t try to put the brand centre stage. LADbible published several editorial videos and stark social media polls that showcased just how many people have been affected by mental health issues and anxiety. By partnering with relevant charities, the brand ensured its campaign was well researched and handled sensitively, whilst still having a genuine impact on its community.

McDonalds gets ghoulish

Bringing real, human stories to the forefront of an ad campaign is almost always effective. McDonalds, however, took it far too far. They presented a scripted story of a grieving boy discussing how much he misses his dead dad… and their shared love of filet-o-fish sandwiches.

It was a ‘brave’ side-step into storytelling, but it was also insensitive and unrealistic. Oops.

The British Army recruits a brave strategy

In a total contrast to McDonalds, The British Army created a stand-out storytelling campaign.

The British Army’s ‘This is Belonging’ thought beyond stereotypes. Though controversial, the campaign effectively addressed misconceptions that new recruits wouldn’t fit in by showcasing inspirational stories from soldiers.

Tackling a sensitive subject in a direct way was a bold move, but it has been widely well received.

Gentrification causes a problem

A Denver coffee shop, Ink Coffee, got bitter backlash when it revealed a sign reading: “Happily gentrifying the neighbourhood since 2014.” Though meant as a joke, the sign certainly wasn’t funny for displaced low-income residents and minority groups.

As place marketing experts, we are particularly aware of being sensitive to existing communities while also trying to create positive and successful places. Really getting to know your audience is key.

London Dungeon has a social media scare

Poor taste jokes just aren’t funny. Especially not jokes about prostitutes and STIs. London Dungeon thought otherwise and went ahead with a disastrous Valentine’s Day PR campaign. The executives running the campaign probably thought they were being brave and edgy, when in reality the campaign was distasteful and offensive.

Lesson learnt? Make sure you’re not going to offend anyone with your campaign – even if it’s designed to spark debate.

Informed decisions make challenging ideas risk-free

At DS.Emotion, we’re big on being brave. We want to push our clients’ expectations by developing stand-out campaigns that deliver results. You can’t do that by being ordinary. However, we’ll always make sure our decisions are thought through from every angle. By implementing our team’s impressive breadth of expertise we make sure we’re clever and brave brand experts.