Polarizing Versus Alienating

Companies strive to have polarizing campaigns to build brand-loyalty and draw new people to their brand. Sometimes, however, it just completely backfires and the campaign alienates a large portion of their fan base. Let’s take a look at a couple of different campaigns and see whether they were a hit or miss.

Cheerios

Let’s take the latest commercial for Cheerios. They recently created a commercial with a bi-racial family. The daughter placed cheerios on her dad when he was sleeping because she wanted him to have a healthy heart. Not too controversial, right? Unfortunately, the YouTube page received negative comments including Nazi references and racial backlash.

Then people started jumping in and defending Cheerios. As a result, they had more than 34,000 views on their YouTube channel! Due to the negative comments they had to close down the comments section, but all of the publicity received and fans advocating for Cheerios, the ad was a success. It did so well, it was actually 2nd highest ranked cereal commercial.The ad especially hit home with African-Americans and Hispanics.

Overall, the ad was a good move for Cheerios and a polarizing campaign at its finest.

 Abercrombie & Fitch

The story of Abercrombie is quite a bit different. CEO Michael Jeffries has made some controversial statements in his time. But this one took the cake:

“It’s almost everything. That’s why we hire good-looking people in our stores. Because good-looking people attract other good-looking people, and we want to market to cool, good-looking people. We don’t market to anyone other than that.” – Source

Needless to say, a large number of people weren’t too happy about. Not only did he say that, he stood strongly with his statement and refused to apologize. He thinks that all of the unattractive and overweight people can shop somewhere else. He thought Abercrombie would be polarizing to attractive people and make unattractive people want to shop there to make the cut.

lyingingrassHowever, this was an extremely bad move from the company and CEO and turned out to be a complete alienation for Abercrombie. There are countless people who are upset over his comments and more damage has been done to the brand than help.

Oreo

Oreo took pride to a new level. On their Facebook page they put a picture of a six layer rainbow Oreo to celebrate the one year anniversary of New York legalizing gay marriage. That photo was posted more than a year ago and people are still talking about it!

pridecookieThis fabulous “pride” cookie was just a part of a much larger campaign idea. Oreo’s Facebook page rolls out themed cookies where timing is everything. The Curiosity rover landed Mars and sent a signal back, yeah there’s an Oreo for that. NFL referees come back? Yup, Oreo’s on it. Lights go out in the middle of the Super Bowl and Oreo immediately whips out a cookie-art creation.

Absolutely great move on Oreo’s part with this. When it comes to creating a polarizing campaign, timing is everything.

Chick-fil-A

The story of Chick-fil-A is truly one of a kind. President Dan Cathy said publicly they were against gay marriage. People in favor of gay rights were furious with this statement and took action. There were protests around the country and some even a year later are still on boycott.

With all the uproar and negativity against Chick-fil-A one might think it was an alienation for the brand and to some degree, yes. They definitely took a hit and continue to reap some of the negativity, but they still came out on top. The brand gained national exposure and people across the country who had never heard of Chick-fil-A were curious about the controversial chicken. In fact, Chick-fil-A’s sales in the last year have gone up 12 percent!

Taking all of these examples into consideration, most of the successful polarizing campaigns were promoting a lifestyle and not rejecting it. Insulting your demographics rarely gets you anywhere. Tread lightly when trying to polarize your audience, you may end up alienating them instead.

About the author

Yas Garay