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Shaken and Stirred:  Why Protein World Doesn’t Care About Pleasing Everyone

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I’m still seeing yellow this week thanks to the roller-coaster ride of the recent Protein World ad campaign.

Over the past couple of weeks, we’ve seen one of the most controversial yet most effective examples of brand communications unfolding before our eyes.

Whether their stance is right or wrong, the steadfast integrity Protein World has shown by standing up for what it believes in has motivated the group of consumers that are likely to buy them. But in the wake of 60,000 petition signatures, was it worth crossing the line for?

Sorry seems to be the hardest word

There’s always two choices in these situations – batten down the hatches or stick your head above the parapet. Protein World chose the latter. All very sensible in theory and then the chief exec was wheeled out and branded the ad protestors as ‘terrorists’. Bit too much I think.

Protein World’s response to the furore on social media was no less jawdropping with the brand openly offending consumers on Twitter.

Richard Staveley, Head of Global Marketing for Protein World, has stood firm throughout, initially telling Sky News that the response to the ads had been ‘fantastic’. He has continued to defend the company’s social media strategy stating that “we’ve created a brand with a real personality….there will be times when that potentially sails quite close to the wind”. And sailing close to the wind doesn’t seem to bother them one bit – in fact they’re loving it. Their approach has angered huge numbers of people but it’s also got them engaged with the audiences they really care about.

A ray of sunshine (yellow)

Then a bit of light relief came as other brands poked fun at the news which I’m sure delighted Protein World as the story was further elevated thanks to well establiby them jumping on the bandwagon to capitalise on the opportunity. Dove has shown their wholesome ‘real beauty’ side of the story whilst my favourite was Carlsberg’s take on ‘body shaming’ ads with their ‘Are you beer body ready’. Raised a bit of a smile amongst tube commuters who took to Twitter to share their amusement.

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Fortune favours the brave…in the short term at least

There’s no question that the controversy has shone a spotlight on a relatively unknown brand which website, Breibart, says has resulted in revenue generation of more than £1 million in less than a week. Not bad for a relatively small advertising investment.

Whilst Protein World has been given a platform in the short term, the brand has most likely made as many enemies as friends. But how useful are those enemies anyway? They’re never likely to buy Protein World shakes. It will be interesting to see whether the brand’s success will last and whether its view of the world has built a strong enough foundation to engage a loyal following of consumers in the long term once the hype dies down.

Whatever your views, brands which try to be all things to all people don’t get noticed. The most successful brands are those with a distinctive view of the world which is truly meaningful for a specific group of consumers. Being bold and brave can pay great dividends but knowing just how far to stretch the boundaries is the key to long term success.

Kate Gibson

Director, Consumer

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