If you're a brand selling the basics - food, auto, financial services, household products - avoiding some other basics in your campaigns is a good idea, namely sex and race. But it seems that marketers are still turning to these age-old shock marketing tactics.
Unsurprisingly, some of the most recent examples have resulted in charges of sexism against what should be some of the most basic American staples: soft drinks and hamburgers. First it was an app for a PepsiCo energy drink brand that offered to help boys "score" with the ladies. Less than two months later, Burger King introduced a new Web site featuring a bikini-clad young woman, showering and singing. It called it "the world's first guilt-free shower-cam."
While PepsiCo was quick to offer an apology and later pulled the offensive app, Burger King seems to be intentionally pushing harder and harder to earn itself the honor of cad of the year with stunts like this, as well as its earlier on-air Jessica Simpson fat jokes. The company defends its tactics by hiding behind demographics. For example, it told Advertising Age, "Our research showed that breakfast is a male-centric audience for Burger King; it doesn't resonate as well with women - we are targeting the people who are buying breakfast."
Well, Burger King, women might not be your core demographic, but they do comprise half of the world's population, make more than 80% of purchasing decisions, and even make more use of social media than men.
Niche marketing is smart, but to do so at the expense of another group is not. The curse and blessing of the Web is that you can more easily reach very specific audiences, but you also can't keep your agenda hidden from another group it might offend. If you're trying to get attention for a standard product, it makes sense to stick to more neutral, yet still creative, tactics. Or follow the example of this month's PR Play and poke fun equally so everyone can share in the laugh.