Social Media: Porn to be wild?

    It’s time to admit it; we all love an edgy brand that has the ability to shock. Shock marketing tactics have produced some of the best-known and most successful campaigns of recent years, after all. Just look at how French Connection transformed their sales a decade ago with the launch of the FCUK brand. And who can forget Pot Noodle’s ‘Slag of all snacks’ campaign that proved too much to swallow for the ASA? (the campaign we mean, not the food).

    Whilst the latter was swiftly removed from our screens, the legacy lived on and helped to cement the pot-based gourmet feast in our minds as a dirty little secret that we loved to indulge in once in a while. Not bad for brand affinity, we’d say.
    So, what about when a much-loved and controversial brand takes it one step too far over social media? Exhibit A: Dr Pepper’s Facebook porn-storm.

    We’ve been following with keen interest the wavering fortunes of Dr Pepper as life imitates art. Once their jingle rang out loud and clear ‘Dr Pepper, so misunderstood’. Now they really are misunderstood by their customers and worse still, they’re facing a barrage of criticism for posting pornographic messages on minors’ Facebook statuses.

    The minors in question gave their social media status updates to the Coca-Cola-owned drinks behemoth (rather like selling one’s soul to the devil) in exchange for an infinitesimally small chance to win £1,000. Yes, you read correctly. The largest drinks company in the world agreed to post embarrassing statuses on these unsuspecting youths’ Facebook pages, but it all turned sour when one 14-year-old girl had references to a notorious hard-core porn flick posted on her status.Dr Pepper - Porn to be wild?

    Parents of said youngster enraged, cue Mumsnet (more influential than Delia, Oprah and Martha Stewart rolled into one) stepping in to defend the rights of the poor and needy. Then cue Coca-Cola running, screaming, for the hills, with the latest admission that they committed commercial Hara-kiri with an ‘uninformed approval’ of the social media campaign.

    This is worse than admitting they sanctioned the campaign in full knowledge of what it would entail. Now they not only look grossly inappropriate but ignorant to boot. Still, we’re sure that the Atlanta-based company will live to fight another day. That’s the thing about shock marketing campaigns, whether over social media or not; it’s the shock that counts and unwittingly or not, Coca-Cola have certainly achieved that.

    The ‘Dr Pepper porn-storm’ will go down as a rather ill-conceived example of a shock Facebook campaign. We know it’s not the first and it certainly won’t be the last. Brands need to be careful when trying to engage over with customers over Facebook. Coca-Cola is big enough to take the hit, but a consumer back-lash for a smaller company could spell the end in a Gerald Ratner-style blaze of dis-glory.

    Facebook certainly isn’t the panacea most marketeers hoped it would be. Campaigns need just as much thought, if not more, before launching on a social media platform and even if you are the biggest drinks company in the world, you can still run into difficulty. A cautionary tale, indeed.