for growth-driven brands.

Marketing has always been a shifting, evolving concept. As our society changes, the way we do business changes making it necessary for marketing to evolve in tandem. If your business doesn’t evolve, it won’t survive and the strategy for your marketing tactics needs to be well thought out. Remember the 2015 Bud Light #UpForAnything campaign? This campaign hoped to embody a carefree, fun night out with friends, tapping into Millennial #FOMO (fear of missing out). Bud Light included fun messages on cans and bottles of their beer as part of this campaign. Except it backfired horribly when a consumer noticed one of the slogans on the can was “The perfect beer for removing ‘no’ from your vocabulary.” Certainly Bud Light’s intentions were not to advocate for ignoring consent; however, in a time of #MeToo and increased awareness on consent and predatory sexual culture, this can represented a moment of tone deafness. Bud Light removed the cans from production, but the damage was done. Social media exploded with comments about the can and slowed sales of the American beer.

Another company that is a household name is the Oh Henry! candy bar. Last month, we brought you  this blog on Oh Henry’s new 425 bar . The 425 bar is their newest candy bar product and has been paired with a cheeky marketing campaign to get profitably involved in the emerging cannabis industry. When established companies take a risk with their marketing strategy it can improve their market share by delighting, humouring, or shocking their customers. However, sometimes it can diminish their market share by scaring, alienating, or dividing their customer base. And, potentially, their shareholders, too.

We shared the Oh Henry! 425 candy bar story with our audience to gain their perspective on this product launch. We wanted to know whether it was delightful or alienating for Oh Henry! to go green. We were surprised by the feedback!

Overall, our audience was thoroughly impressed by Oh Henry!’s “ability to hash out marketing ideas, especially those that are jointly crafted”.  It is not yet clear whether their 425 bar sales will exceed internal expectations or not, but surely recreational cannabis users will be delighted by yet another tasty treat to have when “the munchies” strike. What is clear is Oh Henry! is evolving as a brand, connecting with new audiences and leading the way for other food brands as each learns how to participate in the arising recreational cannabis industry.

So far, it appears this is a successful marketing strategy on Oh Henry!’s part – especially since the cannabis industry is already worth $31B in Canada. They are able to enjoy a piece of the cannabis market pie without competing for direct sales or facing the complicated advertising restrictions that come along with it.

Risky marketing strategies do not always surprise and delight a customer base. It’s possible for it to backfire and alienate customers and non-customers alike. Perhaps you recall a Pepsi commercial from 2017? Starring an up-and-coming model by the name of Kendall Jenner?

In case you forgot the ad, or have not seen it, you can view it here.

While we know that it was Pepsi’s internal creative team, The Creators League Studio, who dreamt up the concept; their intention of a zeitgeist-inspired message of universal love, unity, and acceptance missed the mark (by lightyears, no less). Co-opting political movements, like Black Lives Matter, to sell product is never a great call. Quickly dubbed “the worst ad of all time”, it took nine months for Pepsi’s brand perception to recover with Millennial audiences after the ad aired.

When companies take a risk with their advertising – whether it be launching a non-edible edible – it can certainly pay off. However, your risk must be carefully calculated. Understanding your audience, what they want, and where they are going will prevent damage to your brand and sales.

Leading the evolution of marketing will take brave, insightful, measured marketers who can evolve with the changing society and business landscapes we now live in.

Does your business have the insight to keep up and evolve? If you know where you’re going, but you’re not sure how to get there, give us a call today. We would love to help you evolve.