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The evolution of self-deprecating marketing

Promoting social posts that slate your product is the modern version of airing your dirty laundry in public – it’s not a classic marketing move but it’s been an inspired one from Carlsberg for their latest campaign.

They listened to consumers who told them their beer smelt like naan bread, and worse, took responsibility for the product quality not being good enough, built up noise around the brand on social and then made the most of the hype by giving consumers a solution with a new recipe beer – rebrewed from top to bottom. The conversation switched from positive to negative seamlessly. A risky move on the face of it but with the sheer quality, variety and availability of new beers coming on to the market, they needed to think differently to stay relevant.

And it’s not just Carlsberg, brands are fighting harder than ever for their voice to be heard in the chaos that paints the digital space today. This is driving many to break new ground and be more adventurous with their marketing strategies in order to cut through the online noise and connect with their audience. The stakes are high but there are ways to manage the risk without losing the cutting edge.

The success or failure of this approach comes down to managing the surrounding conversation sparked by the campaign, whether in the media or on social.

Another stand out example came earlier this year when Gillette launched their We Believe: The Best Men Can Be campaign, with a focus on standing up against toxic masculinity. With The Best A Man Can Get tagline 30 years old and at odds with modern ‘woke’ culture, the brand seemed old hat in a sector that was now full of new companies with a new way of doing things, such as Harrys Razors and Dollar Shave Club.

Whether you think it’s a cynical marketing ploy or not, by piggybacking on to a conversation that was firing media stories and impassioned social exchanges worldwide they’ve rediscovered their relevance.

Using a sensitive topic to self-promote was a clear risk, it didn’t work for Brewdog’s pink beer for girls, but with a perfectly executed creative and by taking the ‘right side’, they guaranteed huge exposure for the brand and a whole new audience.

Controlled risk-taking is a sound strategy, but an exemplary understanding of story-telling and managing media, social and influencer conversations around any campaign is essential if it’s going to work.