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News - Questionable Judgment Becoming a Popular Marketing Tactic



Questionable Judgment Becoming a Popular Marketing Tactic

Is JCPenney really drunk- tweeting the Super Bowl? Is Sports Illustrated putting Barbie on the cover of its Swimsuit Issue? Does Groupon honestly think Alexander Hamilton was a President?

When each of these questions flared up recently, the answer was always the same: No, of course not.

The allegedly funny, yet largely frustrating new trend of marketers “punking” consumers with what could best be described as intentional fouls, is gaining popularity. Brands are alluding to questionable judgment, only to reveal soon after that it was all just a joke or much smaller in reality than the public was led to believe.

Is this the new era of marketing? Each brand saw a spike in online conversation and media coverage that PR pros aim for. However, the volume of reaction was mixed, and it’s also likely that many consumers who saw the original stunt never saw the later reveal.  In these instances, brands come across as being silly, stupid and even incompetent, which in turn results in a negative effect.

A prime-case example:  JCPenney’s supposedly drunk tweets during the Super Bowl received approximately 40,000 re-tweets and widespread media coverage, but the follow-up #tweetingwithmittens hashtag only got used 7,911 times. This goes to show that perhaps the “re-tweets” were not so much about the brand itself, as it was the integrity (or lack thereof) of the commercial aired.

Groupon’s Presidents’ Day announcement that it was “honoring Alexander Hamilton” with a $10 discount yielded just 3,500 tweets, despite their efforts to “flub” the public with the knowledge that Hamilton was never a United States President.

So is the “intentional foul” a smart marketing move?

“Brands need to take a long, hard look at themselves before engaging in this kind of approach,” said Edelman Digital Senior Vice-President Dave Fleet. “For those with a playful identity and whose audiences are used to this kind of tone, the risk is lower, and this approach can break through the clutter.”

“Trust in a brand is critical, and a perception of betraying that trust can do long-lasting damage to a company’s relationship with its customers,” Fleet went on to say. “That doesn’t mean ‘don’t do it,’ but it does mean companies should think twice about point-in-time stunts if they don’t fit with their brand.”

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