Political Incorrectness and Brand Differentiation

reatraunt branding

Can Political Incorrectness ever be a valid brand communication strategy?

OK, so this may be skirting the boundaries of sensitivity and taste, but sometimes the most interesting strategies are found where others fear to tread. When it comes to political correctness, most clients want to sail well clear of potential controversy. This approach makes alot of sense in a no risk business and marketing strategy. But what about when your marketing budget and business model require you to take risks?

Standing-out in a crowded market is a tough task, and often risk taking is the best strategy.

A few years ago we worked with a retirement village developing their branding and marketing. They asked for some outdoor advertising concepts that took a bit of a risk, captured attention and stood-out from their competitors. We went to two and developed a campaign around two headlines: Visit Viagra Falls’ and ‘More than 50 Shades of Grey’. Both concepts met the brief, but pushed the client outside their comfort zone and we ended-up settling for a less risky campaign.

It takes a brave client to flirt with the boundaries of political correctness.

But it also takes a client with the sensitivity to understand where the line of decency and respect lies, as well as what will actually appeal to their market. Standing out for the sake of it is not a wise strategy.

Using the example of the images above which are cheesy, tongue in cheek memes rather than a genuine restaurant marketing campaign, this transforms from an insensitive, tasteless and possibly racist campaign into a very memorable piece of marketing if the Chinese owners of the restaurant are on-board. When political sensitivity is a case of us laughing at ourselves – not others – it can deliver a highly engaging marketing message. We once had a young Chinese design intern whose email address; [email protected] was such a memorable piece of personal branding it sticks in my mind well beyond when he finished with us to launch his own stellar career.

So the answer to the question; ‘Can Political Incorrectness ever be a valid brand communication strategy?’ It can be, but only when you as the client are comfortable with risk and feel like you have the sensitivity to be incorrect without disrespect.

Dave Ansett
David is the founder of Truly Deeply, a brand agency with 25 years experience working with brands to position them for growth. His deep expertise is in the creation of high engagement brands that attract the attention of their audience and stand out from their competitors. David has extensive experience working with corporate, retail, food & beverage and entrepreneurial clients. Find out more here
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