The eternal quest of every brand is to be able to meaningfully differentiate itself from a competitive set. To connect with consumers in a way that resonates and thus ultimately drives them to opt for their brand above all others. Needless to say that, as a process, it epitomises the saying "easier said than done".
This week the story of Sprite appeared in the press. In their most recent campaign effort to stand out as a brand "celebrating those with the guts to tell it like it is," they became 'that guy' on a night out who is memorable for all the wrong reasons.
With the intention of connecting with a young, male target audience the brand headlined with anecdotes such as "A 2 at 10 is a 10 at 2" and "You're not popular, you're easy" under the hashtag #BrutallyRefreshing.
However, in this attempt at 'lad's night out' banter, arguably they crossed the line in being perceived as offensive rather than entertaining in the eyes of the Irish consumer. The result for Sprite was having to pull the ads and issue an apology.
With social media encouraging two-way conversations with consumers, we know that this is both a valuable and risky asset. As discussed in How to create a culture of risk taking:
"When it comes to risk taking, the issues are even more complex in the age of social media. On the one hand, marketers have to try new and sometimes risky moves to make their mark and attract attention in the cluttered world of digital interactions".
For Sprite, this move to "tell it like it is" resulted in some awkward online conversations…
But there are lessons to be learnt here. The best campaigns are built based on a fundamental insight that truly strikes a chord and, looking back, potentially someone with 'guts to tell it like it is' rarely conveys a point of view that doesn't rub the majority of people in the room up the wrong way.
That is most definitely not to say that brands should be afraid of sharing an opinion - but to make sure your opinion is well considered in what it aims to achieve (and belittling to get ahead has never been the recommended approach).
The final lesson to be learned here is to tackle mistakes with transparency and learn from them. Even the greatest brands, like Coca-Cola, will not always get it right and on this occasion openly "recognised that the content did not meet the standard and apologised." In building any relationship an honest apology is 'brutally refreshing' and the best way to move forwards.