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Brands that have succeeded (and failed) taking risks in PR and marketing strategies

In today’s competitive marketplace, brands are constantly seeking ways to capture consumers’ attention and stand out from the crowd. Over the last few years, we have witnessed more and more brands opt for bold and unconventional PR and marketing strategies to create lasting impact, but reward doesn’t come without risk and there is a balance to be struck with being memorable for the right reasons.

Some brands which have stood out to me recently… for all the good, and bad, reasons are…

Aldi

It wouldn’t be right to write this blog without starting with the German supermarket chain, Aldi, which has built a reputation for its humorous and direct advertising campaigns. Its witty, and often self-deprecating, approach helps the supermarket chain to connect with its target audience, and highlight their competitive prices. While its boldness has paid off with increased brand awareness, Aldi has also faced some criticism for pushing boundaries, suggesting that an overly audacious approach may risk alienating certain consumer segments. That being said, I know I am not alone in enjoying Aldi Twitter commentary - to the Aldi social media managers, I salute you!

Surreal

Fairly new to the supermarket shelves, Surreal specialises in producing plant-based and allergen-free cereal products. The brand isn’t afraid to have fun whilst emphasising its commitment to nutritious breakfast options. Through a storytelling marketing strategy and engaging and transparent content, Surreal has been able to quickly establish trust with its audience and showcase its dedication to quality and consumer wellbeing. Dear Ellie, is an excellent example of this.

Nando’s

And no, the peri peri global restaurant chain doesn’t feature just because I love a cheeky Nando’s, but it is because of the brand’s hidden marketing strategy that rarely gets the air time that it deserves. Have you clocked its napkins? Renowned for leveraging humour, the brand has not only built a strong brand personality online, but offline too. This is achieved by listening to customers and staying relevant to current trends; the puntastic napkins include messages playing homage to Tinder with “wipe right”, rapper Snoop Dogg with “Mop it likes its hot”, and many more. A brilliant example of a low-cost marketing activation with a high return on investment.

BrewDog

Craft Beer giant, BrewDog, has become known for its unapologetic and audacious marketing tactics. From producing the world's strongest beer to controversial promotional stunts, BrewDog consistently grabs attention. However, such boldness can sometimes overshadow the brand's core values, potentially alienating customers who seek authenticity and transparency. Whilst I love sampling the beers, I can’t say I am always on board with the company’s approaches, which seem to, at times, throw cheap shots at its competitors.

Bold marketing strategies can undoubtedly generate buzz, and the aforementioned brands have successfully deployed boldness in their marketing campaigns to build strong brand identities. That being said, there is something equally as admirable when brands exercise caution and reliability - not every company needs to, or should, be a disrupter. It’s the brands that strike a balance between bold campaigns and vigilance that will stand the test of time, who will continue to effectively engage with their target audiences whilst avoiding alienation and reputational risk. Through careful evaluation of the market and of the potential impact of marketing decisions, brands can navigate the fine line between risk and reward to achieve long-term success.

Written by Sophie Baillie, associate director and head of client services at agency Conscious Communications 

For more examples of brands that have succeeded or failed with unusual strategies, check out PRmoment’s Good and Bad PR column. Plus top PR stunts can be found here.

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