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Is a Controversial Campaign Worth the Risk?


Visit Dr. Pepper’s Facebook Fan Page right now and you’ll see this message:

“Because of the new ad campaign, I finally have a reason to give up my Dr. Pepper love affair for water. Thank you! “

The woman is upset because Dr. Pepper’s new social media marketing campaign is aimed at men and only men. The “Ten for Men” program pushes the “Dr. Pepper Ten Man’ments” which includes such notations as “THOU SHALT NOT POST FURRY ANIMAL VIDEOS. Exceptions made for beasts fighting to the death and bears destroying idyllic picnic scenes” and “THOU SHALT NOT OMG. If it’s not exploding, it’s not exciting.”

Dr. Pepper is hoping to make their new diet soda look manly and it’s a brilliant move. I’m one of those women who doesn’t understand why other women are getting mad.

But that’s the problem with any ad campaign that uses parody, sexism, racism or any other -ism to make their point. It could backfire on you.

Wave Metrix recently published a report called Q3 2011: the benefits and limits of a social media fan base. The report focuses on the public’s response to a variety of iffy marketing campaigns.

One case is EasyJet, a discount airline who decided to poke fun at rival British Airways with their social media campaign. Fans were not amused. They thought it was rude and childish and the brand’s image took a hard hit.

Nike also made a misstep when they re-launched the “Back to the Future II” MAGS on Facebook. Because the proceeds went to charity, Nike’s “caring” score rose but the high price-point alienated the Nike regulars so a high percentage of the brand buzz was bad.

 Who Got it Right?

Burberry made a bold move recently when they decided to release photos from their Spring/Summer 2012 fashion show exclusively on Twitter. Followers were excited to be a part of the chosen few and brand love abounded on fashionista Twitter streams from all over the world.

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And remember when Domino’s Pizza put Twitter messages on a ticker in Times Square? They closed their eyes and threw the switch, hoping they wouldn’t get slaughtered by hours of negative remarks. There were a few, but mostly the comments were positive. More importantly 12% of those surveyed thought it was a brave move and that gave them a positive feeling about the brand.

When it comes to social media marketing, your fans and followers can be your biggest ally or your greatest foes. Sometimes you have to take a chance and roll with an idea. If it backfires, don’t panic. You can make it up to them with a coupon in your next campaign.

They say that all publicity is good publicity and despite the negative comments on their wall, I’d bet that Dr. Pepper agrees.