Borkowski Weekly Media Trends 16-04-21

Brand Lockdown Reopening Stunts | Nigel Farage' Successful Cameo | M&S v Aldi Colin the Caterpillar Food Wars

Best Reopening Stunts

It was the week we saw lockdown restrictions eased in the UK, and the unleashing of millions of Brits desperate to spend their money on having fun. Many brands forewent the opportunity to insert themselves into festivities – perhaps too busy getting the pints in themselves, or else scarred from April Fools Day two weeks prior – but some couldn’t resist.

Was it worth it? Looking at Heineken’s ‘pub garden haircuts’, maybe. The beer brand partnered with men’s toiletries maker Cowshed to offer free haircuts out of shiny beer-can-like pop-up bars in London, Birmingham and Manchester. It’s about as on the nose you can get, but its cheery delivery meant it got away with it without looking too try-hard. There’s no evidence of how many people took Heikenen up on the offer, but the stunt achieved plenty of positive write-ups for its efforts.

Tesco’s attempt was another story. It’s ‘Pop to your local if you can’ ads felt like a cheap rip-off of Burger King’s ‘Order from McDonald’s’ campaign back in November. Back then, the sincerity of the message was balanced by the freshness of the idea. The staleness of it now means that Tesco’s version reads as cringely fake, despite its good cause. We’ve spent the year being bombarded with (and analysing, here on Trends) over-emotional campaigns. Tesco should’ve read the room better in the week all customers want to do is forget the doom and gloom and focus on having fun.

Nigel Farage’s Successful Cameo

Over the past couple of weeks, you may have seen Nigel Farage narrate bizarre video messages - whether it's prank like names or alt right memes, many have taken to popular video-sharing website Cameo to pay Farage £75 to say ANYTHING.

Cameo’s videos tend to be personalised, traditionally for user’s birthday messages or private jokes, but a few online pranksters have used the platform to embarrass Farage, creating a viral trend.

It's difficult to get your head around this, particularly as some of the memes are so niche that they've lost all meaning. The more popular viral shorts have been a Simpsons-like crank calls where Farage is tricked into saying rude sounding names.

Whilst Farage has become an Internet laughingstock, it is clear he knows what’s going on, despite not understanding most of the memes. There’s an undoubtable smugness in his tone, which likely comes from the £55 he pockets for each video (factoring the 25% fee Cameo charge).

Farage’s core audience won't know the origins of the BigChungus meme or any references to online social deduction game Among Us and in political circles, most will roll their eyes at these videos. But this will become stale very quickly, particularly as Farage racks up thousands sitting at home. You can’t help but feel Farage is winning somehow…

Farage’s biggest issue is that these memes will stay with him forever, but the fact he is willingly doing this nullifies its impact as an organic meme.

The real winners? Cameo. But also Farage himself. This will eventually become stale and Farage will look back on this chapter as quite a profitable one.

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M&S vs Aldi: The Colintroversy

Marks & Spencer has a skill in creating confectionary cartoon characters to which people form such heartfelt emotional attachments that they can defy the most potent media trends of the epoch. In doing so, a couple of them have become a powerful, delicious, disgustingly sugary PR weapon for their creators.

A while back we talked about how, despite growing consumer concern around food standards – both nutritional and environmental, public and media leapt to the defence of M&S’s beloved Percy Pigs amid accusations that the description on the packet giving a misleading impression of their nutritional benefits. Compare this to the treatment of other exposés about the nutritional content of food and you get an idea of the strength of feeling for that cartoon pig.

This week we saw that there is similar love for Colin the Caterpillar, the basic but beloved chocolate Birthday Cake, in news that M&S was to take legal action against Aldi for their rip-off, Cuthbert the Caterpillar. A while ago we talked about how Hugo Boss came across as the petulant corporate spoil-sports and incurred the mockery of Joe Lycett for taking similar action against an independent brewer, but in stark contrast, public and media -just as they did with Percy- have launched themselves heroically to the defence of M&S, or, more to the point, of Colin.

The idea of creating goofy characters to sell confectionary probably wasn’t conceived with corporate communications in mind, and the products’ popularity is definitely subject to overkill: Percy has mutated from a sweet into a garishly pink range of cakes and this week’s ‘Colintroversy’ comes hot on the heels of M&S releasing a new product that can only be described as an invitation to eat Colin’s mangled remains from a jar. But creating characters that people love has definitely helped M&S sand the rougher edges off what could otherwise have been a couple of pretty prickly communications crises.

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