Borkowski Weekly Media Trends 19-11-21
Oatly's Spilt Milk | K-Stew's Gay Ghost Hunting Reality Show | Cricket's Racism Problem | Deep Fried Turkey PSA Up in Flames
Oatly shareholders crying over spilt milk (marketing)
Cow milk-challenger Oatly has seen a significant share price drop following lower than expected sales. Oatly, who has tried to break the internet with punchy and provocative marketing (asking would-be regulators ‘are you stupid’ and using the tagline ‘like milk but made for humans’) has failed to walk the walk and is now apparently trying to chug a gallon of operational issues, from Asian shutdowns to underperforming Utah factories.
It’s now all crisis PR and investor relations as pre-tax losses soar to $40million for this upstart proteinista once heralded by some as a pioneer of alternative marketing. Their latest earnings show that, like oat milk, man cannot live on punchy copy alone. If you are going to opt for a ballsy, bombastic comms strategy, it has to be built on a solid business foundation so that you can keep up with the hype you create.
What this means for vegan alternative brands remains to be seen. For us PR folk, however, it is a nutrient-rich reminder that not everything boils down to cut-through and stoking consumer interest. What this company might have seen as its biggest challenge—overcoming consumer prejudice against fancy milk alternatives—has proven a small task compared with getting the thing made and delivered. As appetites for dairy alternatives continue to rise, even the creme of the markcomms crop can’t stay afloat in this logistics-addled world of ours.
LGBT stands for Lesbian.Ghost.Bisexual.Trans
First the gays turned frogs queer, now the next stop on the agenda is the supernatural world. While both ideas are absurd, the former is homophobic pseudoscience and the latter is a very clever move on Kristen Stewart’s part to further entrench herself in queer subculture. Stewart has announced plans to create a gay ghost-hunting reality TV show which she described as a ‘paranormal romp in queer space.’ Sounds like our idea of a good time.
With a well-carved spot in paranormal media following the Twilight series, the move feels like a tailored expansion into popular territory. The idea is not new, however. Queer Ghost Hunters was a documentary web series launched in 2016 in which queer ghost hunters attempted to commune with gay figures of the past. The occult has always been a medium in which artists queered otherwise normative spaces with popular themes of the unspeakable, strained family ties, and strength in the typically ‘unnatural’. New religion and witchcraft offer surrogate fringe communities in the screen arts for queer audiences to locate themselves on the peripheries of mainstream media. One only has to consider the large queer following that prompted Ryan Murphy’s extravagantly campy ‘American Horror Story: Coven’ inordinate success (the only series to receive a sequel).
LGBTq+ audiences offer loyal fanbases, with long-gone or mainstream-adjacent celebrities fading out of public memory finding strong afterlives in queer media from Greta Garbo lines recited in AIDS poems to Cher songs performed in drag musicals. Such trends explain Harry Style’s, if I can be so cynical, unbridled queer baiting proving to be a successful PR move to weave himself strongly into pop culture. Kristen Stewart has not necessarily been at the zeitgeist of subculture, if anything she was often a measure of all that is cringe and crass (is that not camp, however?). Yet, her clever blending of the occult and the queer, especially after inhabiting a major gay icon like Princess Diana to strong effect in Spencer, may sound like a niche and obscure venture but will ensure persistent popularity as an identifiable symbol of all that is brilliantly transgressive and weird. Ghostbusters could truly never.
Cricket's Racism Problem
Cricket is in crisis amid an ongoing investigation into racism, sparked by Azeem Rafiq's testimony to a DCMS committee this week, which has shinned a glaring and disturbing spotlight on issues present in the sport.
Cricket's institutional racism problem is threatening to get out of hand, with the possibility of independent regulation as a "nuclear" option to deal with the crisis.
We are seeing some immediate changes in the aftermath of this racism scandal. Several top officials at Yorkshire County club resigned, where Azeem suffered racial slurs, bullying, and a hostile dressing room culture during his two spells between 2008 and 2018.
Several more high-profile names are being dragged through the mud, with Azeem himself accused of racism. Yesterday he apologised for historical anti-Semitic Facebook messages from 2011.
As we learn more about this scandal, it is clear there are no winners, only losers, but it's a chance for a real and severe shake-up. This episode will be impossible to ignore for all those involved in cricket, particularly the ECB, cricket's national governing body.
The ECB's handling of the scandal has been questionable with news that CEO Tom Harrison refuses to step down. As a result, whatever action plan Harrison is working on must be drastic and enact tangible change. Otherwise, cricket might slip into a dark period that it can never shake.
Fire Dept’s Deep Fried Turkey ‘Warning’ video could (literally) spread like wildfire
A modern American tradition reignited this week as Fire Departments around the USA launched thanksgiving PSAs warning against the dangers of deep-frying turkeys.
The spectacular, flame-fuelled videos – somewhere between an episode of Brainiac and a Michael Bay film were successful in terms of exposure, several achieving virality across social media, but the overall campaign may have little impact, or even backfire.
Several commentators pointed out that the people most likely to deep fry turkeys in a barrel in their back garden, are probably precisely the least likely to watch, let alone heed the warning of such a PSA.
Or worse, in gearing the videos towards virality by creating these spectacular infernos, the Fire Departments may actually be encouraging a new generation of morons to give deep frying a go, in the belief (not rebutted in enough solemn detail in the PSAs) that they will be treated both to the hottest show in town, and a succulent fried turkey dinner.
Something like an interview with the survivor of a turkey-frying accident may not have received the same views, engagement or media pick-up, but it would have a much better chance of dissuading the next wannabe pyro-gourmand from taking their life in their hands.