Brand campaigns turning gray in support of LaFlamme could backfire, experts say

Marketing experts say brands that have advertised themselves with a nod to the recent firing of CTV National News anchor Lisa LaFlamme should beware of pushback.

Companies that embed news moments into their brand risk being seen as opportunists and should prepare for additional scrutiny from customers and employees when they take a stand on hot topics, said retail analyst Bruce Winder.

“Nobody’s perfect, right? Every brand has skeletons in the closet…and this opens them up to a lot of scrutiny…so you better make sure your house is in order before you start tossing this around.” “, said. he said she.

“There could be some pushback if there’s something hidden in the cabinets that relates to something both companies have done, so it’s a high-risk move.”

Winder’s comments come after fast-food chain Wendy’s changed the profile picture on its Canadian Twitter account on Thursday to its gray-haired pet instead of its usual red locks.

The tweet reads “because a star is a star regardless of hair color,” using two-star emojis, and includes LaFlamme’s name in a hashtag.

Media reports have linked LaFlamme’s ouster from Bell Media to her decision to stop dyeing her hair during the pandemic.

Risk of appearing ‘opportunistic’

Earlier this week, Dove Canada alluded to LaFlamme’s firing after 35 years with the network in a campaign called Keep the Grey, which proclaimed “age is beautiful” and said “women should be able to do it on their own terms.” without any consequences.”

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Following the directions of Dove, Sports Illustrated magazine Announced a new grayscale cover featuring Elon Musk’s mother, Maye Musk. “We’re graying out @Dove in support of women aging confidently on their own terms,” ​​the tweet read.

Dove never referenced LaFlamme in its campaign, which donated $100,000 to the women’s advocacy organization Catalyst and encouraged others to change their profile photos to greyscale.

Wendy’s and Dove did not immediately respond to a request for comment, nor did Bell Media, which owns CTV. CBC News has reached out to Sports Illustrated.

Winder felt that the Wendy’s campaign was “probably a little perfunctory”. Dove’s, he said, was “deeper and more serious.”

“But still, both brands seem a bit opportunistic, like they’re tapping into what’s hot this week and what’s hot this week, and they seem to be trying really hard,” he said.

Joanne McNeish, an associate professor of marketing at the Metropolitan University of Toronto, felt Wendy’s campaign didn’t make much sense, because the brand has never been associated with ageism or gray hair.

“With Wendy’s, it’s going to sink like a stone,” McNeish said. “It doesn’t take them long to try, but they could have been a lot smarter the way they did it.”

He noted that Dove has long been associated with these issues and has campaigned on gray hair for 15 years.

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“These campaigns work best when there is a relationship and a foundation for the work that you are doing and the cause that you are supporting,” he said.

Marketing news buzz has risks and rewards

Associating a brand with any trending news comes with risks and rewards, he warned.

Companies can easily generate attention for their brands that can translate into sales, when a campaign really resonates with customers. But such announcements also open companies up to a new level of scrutiny.

Brand campaigns turning gray in support of LaFlamme could backfire, experts say kendall jenner pepsi
Model and Kardashian clan member Kendall Jenner’s turn as a protester with Pepsi had many on social media decrying the images as an appropriation of the Black Lives Matter movement. (Pepsi/YouTube)

“It’s actually a real art form to understand how to respond to these situations, because sometimes these are really wonderful bonus situations where you get a huge boost in awareness, and maybe some sales, or they can be devastating if you discover something later. or there’s another part of the problem that wasn’t so clear to you,” McNeish said.

Companies need look no further than Pepsi to see the risks, Winder added.

The soda giant made an ad in 2017 featuring the model and keeping up with the Kardashians star Kendall Jenner joined a protest and diffused tensions by handing a Pepsi to a police officer.

Many saw the announcement as a trivialization of the Black Lives Matter movement.

“So it’s very high risk,” Winder said. “can resonate [and be] very popular with certain people, and some people may see it as opportunistic and a bit sleazy.”

Companies that take risks have to be quick and stick to the moment before the zeitgeist wears off or other brands get ahead of them, McNeish said.

“There is only room for a few to really get the great reward of being associated [with a news item]…so that’s why you have to be ready to jump into these situations.”