Is Offensive Marketing Just Cheap PR?

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Sometimes I wonder if brands intentionally launch offensive campaigns for the PR. Are we as a society really that soulless? The conspiracy theorist inside me thinks so.

Firstly, let’s look at a recent tasteless campaign for context. A few months ago, Bud Light printed a slogan on their cans that suggested removing “no” from one’s vocabulary. The brand messaging is about having a good time, so at first this seems plausible. However, considering they sell an alcoholic beverage and their primary demographic is males 21 – 30 who are trying to pick up girls at a bar, and… you see where I’m going. People weren’t happy.

While at first it seems like an innocent mistake that somehow passed through several layers of approval before being printed on millions of cans, it also makes me think that perhaps there’s something else at work here– that perhaps there are marketing departments so clever and conniving, that they intentionally launch something offensive, knowing that people will give them the benefit of the doubt (all the while assuming that nobody would ever intentionally launch something that offensive) and shamelessly cashing in on the free, widespread PR.

I’m also pretty sure that the movie The Interview had some layer of PR genius behind it (the movie wasn’t that bad either). And Janet Jackson’s wardrobe malfunction during Superbowl XXXVIII? I’m sure she sold a few more albums after that.

Any other offensive marketing conspiracies you can think of?



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Al is a marketer at HubSpot, a marketing software company in Cambridge, MA. He is the creator of Mink.

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