Pushing the Envelope with Marketing

Several weeks ago, I received an email from Fandango – yes, I get emails from Fandango – with a bold and eye-catching headline.

“Saving the World Takes a Big Johnson and a Little Hart”

For myself, I knew immediately this was referring to Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart starring in the movie, “Central Intelligence.” However, it wasn’t lost on me that this was an adventurous and potentially risky headline for even an email.

Many of you may be reading this and wondering what the big deal is, but there are many in this country of ours that are shuddering when they see a message like this. Clearly, there is nothing wrong with “a little Hart,” but the implications that come with the other part of this message are not lost on probably most of those who will see it.

From a PR and marketing perspective, this is always a tough choice. Do you take a creative idea and toss it aside due to the potential offensive factor or do you run with it to see if the shock value outweighs any of the negative? This happens all the time with individuals on social media, but companies tend to put more thought into it. For example, many businesses had to make a choice about linking their business to Prince’s death. Others had to be careful in how they marketed their status updates by using the recent shootings as part of the message. It can be a difficult decision and sometimes even the best intentions can go wrong.

There is no right or wrong answer for how to handle these types of decisions. I personally have been fortunate that all of my decisions for clients on what will be considered acceptable have worked out. But all it takes is one person or one group of people to have a problem, and then it can turn into an avalanche. This is why you always want an experienced professional to help you with making those decisions.

The “Central Intelligence” email worked out for Fandango, or at least didn’t result in massive negative feedback. The movie itself drew better audience reviews than it did from critics so it seems as if the campaign didn't cause any negative feedback. But it was risky, and each business has to decide for itself just how much risk they are willing to take when it comes to marketing their company. The question is, how much are you willing to risk?


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