In the wake of LaFlamme’s release, brands should be wary when jumping on hot topics: experts

Companies that incorporate newsworthy moments into their branding run the risk of being viewed as opportunistic and should prepare for more scrutiny from customers.

TORONTO — Marketing experts say brands that announced themselves with a nod to the recent firing of CTV National News host Lisa LaFlamme should be wary of blowbacks.

Companies that incorporate newsworthy moments into their branding run the risk of being seen as opportunistic and should prepare for more scrutiny from customers and employees when taking a stand on burning issues. said retail analyst Bruce Winder.

« Nobody’s perfect, right? Every brand has skeletons in the closet…and that exposes them to scrutiny…so you better make sure your house is in order before you start throwing that over there » he said.

« There could be a blowback, if there’s something lurking in the cupboards in terms of everything the two companies have been doing, so it’s a high-risk move. »

Winder’s remarks come after fast food chain Wendy’s changed the profile picture on its Canadian Twitter account on Thursday to its mascot sporting gray hair instead of his usual red locks.

The tweet reads « because a star is a star no matter what hair color, » using two star emojis, and includes LaFlamme’s name in a hashtag.

The media has linked LaFlamme’s ousting from Bell Media to her decision to stop dyeing her hair during the pandemic.

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

Dove never referenced LaFlamme in its campaign, which donated $100,000 to women’s advocacy organization Catalyst and encouraged others to turn their profile pictures to grayscale.

Neither company immediately responded to a request for comment, nor did Bell Media.

However, Winder felt that Wendy’s campaign was « probably a bit superficial ». Dove, he said, was « deeper and more serious ».

« But still, both brands look a bit opportunistic, like they’re taking advantage of what’s hot this week and what’s hot this week, and it looks like they’re trying hard, » did he declare.

Meanwhile, Joanne McNeish 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 will sink like a stone, » said the associate professor of marketing at Metropolitan University of Toronto.

« It doesn’t cost them much to try, but they could have been so much smarter in the way they did it. »

However, she noted that Dove has long been linked to these topics and has been campaigning on graying hair for 15 years.

« These campaigns work best when there’s a connection and foundation for the work you do and the cause you support, » she said.

But associating a brand with trending news has both risks and rewards, she warned.

Businesses can easily drive attention to their brands, which can translate into sales, when a campaign really resonates with customers, but such ads also open businesses up to a new level of scrutiny.

« There’s actually a real art form in figuring out how to react to these situations because sometimes they’re really wonderful bonus situations where you get great awareness, and maybe sales, or they can be devastating if you find out something later or there’s another piece 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 ran a commercial in 2017 featuring model and « Keeping up with the Kardashians » star Kendall Jenner joining a protest and defusing tensions by handing a police officer a Pepsi.

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

« So it’s a very high risk, » Winder said. « It may sound (and be) very popular to some people, and some people may see it as opportunistic and a little sordid. »

Companies that take the risk need to be quick and get to the moment before it slips out of the air or other brands have outstripped them, McNeish said.

« There’s only so much room for a few to really get the big reward of being associated…that’s why you have to be prepared to jump on those situations. »

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on August 26, 2022.

Tara Deschamps, The Canadian Press


Back to top button