A view from Laurence Green: It’s better for brands to be infamous than completely forgotten
There’s something going on out there. A new breed of advertising storm-chasers have shed their risk aversion and seem to be wilfully inviting backlash, trading the safe harbour of unremarkable strategies and vanilla copy for choppier waters. The Marketing Society’s Excellence Awards have just been relaunched as the Brave Awards. Whichever way you look at it, it seems brave is the new excellent.
Nike, Gillette and Greggs all knew what they were doing when they decided to support Colin Kaepernick, take a stand against toxic masculinity and introduce that vegan sausage roll. Each is too deliberate a marketer to invite opprobrium by accident; each knew there would be haters; each walked towards the gunfire anyway.
Building your brand by stoking controversy is not without precedent, of course. Olivier Toscani’s Benetton posters tested the public’s notions of advertising decency for almost 20 years. His various images of Aids victims, death-row inmates and – squeamish readers, look away now – a newborn baby enjoyed a half-life in “earned media” long before the term itself was coined. Renzo Rosso’s Diesel and Trevor Beattie’s FCUK trod the same path equally knowingly.