Are You Backlash Ready?

The controversy surrounding the Protein World ‘Are You Beach Body Ready’ campaign is an interesting one – and poses a lot of questions about how brands create awareness in these socially dominant days.

Rather than be apologetic and conciliatory in response to the 35,000+ voices that have signed the petition against the campaign – Protein World, and their CEO Arjun Seth, have come out fighting.

They have not only posted up a montage of popular magazine front covers that take a strikingly similar approach in encouraging their readers to get their bodies in shape, but they’ve also started a huge trend with the #GrowUpHarriet hashtag in response to one particularly vociferous complainant.

So is it a campaign born out of naïve stupidity, or is it a stroke of marketing genius? It’s extremely unlikely that any of those people that have been offended, or who have defaced the ads or created their own versions, would ever buy a Protein World product – and it’s clear just by looking at their social media feeds that the brand has gained a substantial amount of support backing the campaign, but more interestingly – backing their strong stance against the haters.

It’s a fine line to tread – but if you tread carefully and confidently then the rewards are potentially great for a brand. A universally popular public perception is almost impossible to achieve these days – especially when your products are targeting a specific group of people in society. Creating, saying or doing something controversial will generate an infinite amount of publicity and brand awareness. Why? Because it polarises opinion and provokes debate – and that in turn generates more shares, likes and retweets than anything else. The free media this earns a brand is worth its weight in gold.

At the end of the day the facts speak for themselves. Protein World are less than 2 years old. They already boast the largest protein plant in the UK – producing over 150 products. They ship to over 50 countries and have over 300,000 customers – with almost 7,000 new ones added in just one 24hr period since all of the controversy began. Their success to date certainly proves that there are some shrewd heads making decisions in the business.

Like them or loathe them – Protein World have proven something valuable. If a brand invests time, energy and money creating an advertising campaign, then their customers (existing or new) will respect that brand more if they stand firm and stand behind their strategy – rather than pull it at the first sign of trouble.

And as one journalist has put it – an online petition against a campaign is fast becoming an essential modern marketing tool, with the Social Justice Warriors becoming a vital part of the marketing machine of the product they loathe so much.

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