A (Det)total Marketing Failure?

Whether you’re a comms-bod or not, I’m fairly certain you’ve seen *that* Dettol ad recently. The one branded by many as dodgy Trainspotting copy, and branded by so even more as ‘entirely out of touch’.

The infamous poster set social media sparks flying a few weeks ago when it was spotted, and posted on Twitter, by a London-underground tube user.

Hearing An Alarm. Putting Pen To Paper. Missing The Mark On Your Advertising Campaign

I’m just wondering how a copywriter actually managed to get ‘proper bants’ signed off

The original post currently has 17.2k retweets and 62.1k likes, but the conversation far exceeded that. For days, Twitter users sustained debates and arguments about the ad, with the general opinion being that it was totally misguided and had a right to be ridiculed.

For better or for worse, Dettol was thrust into the public image. Although in the original tweet, no affiliations with the brand were made, it didn’t take others too long to point out that this was in fact an advertising campaign by the Anglo-Dutch brand.

At the peak of the discussions, ‘Dettol’ was a top trending subject on Twitter for a period of several days.

But did they know exactly what they were doing?

Immediately, I knew there was more to pull apart here. Many old school marketeers would argue that if a brand has started a conversation as big as this, then they’re doing something right. All publicity is good publicity, the old saying goes.

Others, however, might argue that it’s more important to protect the brand’s reputation, and the only time that viral attention is good, is if it’s the right kind of attention. Ultimately, some communications professionals would only want the public talking about their brand, if it’s in a favourable manner.

Knowing at some point I would open my laptop, sit down and write this post, I decided to ask my followers what they thought, before I weigh in myself.

Those poll results look eerily similar…

Good Publicity Or A Total Washout?

Surprisingly, the end decision was not so clear cut. Ultimately, my followers decided that the debacle was actually good publicity for Dettol (52.2%). Let’s think about why they might have said this.

Good Publicity

It’s the dream of many in marketing to start a viral trend, so if you’re looking at the situation at face value then it can be claimed as a success. So many people were talking about Dettol a few weeks ago. Granted, the feedback wasn’t particularly positive, but nevertheless the brand was still really prominent. What’s more, the slander wasn’t necessarily directed at Dettol itself, but rather the Government-led ‘back to work’ campaign. The antiseptic brand merely supported this notion in their own advertising.

Ultimately, the positives are that…

  • People were, for better or worse, talking about the brand
  • The campaign was on brand, Dettol products will be used in abundance as people return to the office more health conscious than before
  • Conversation was on Twitter, one of the biggest social networking sites by user
  • The Dettol branding came through strong on the images shared (the iconic green and white)

Bad Publicity

On the other hand though, the more conventional of us might argue that not all good publicity is good publicity. Those focused on protecting and strengthening reputations might have cringed at this whole affair, much like I did.

Ultimately, to me, you want people to be talking about your brand enthusiastically. Not pulling it apart. And of course there’s the argument that the initial conversation began with social media users slating the Government rather than Dettol, but eventually the ridiculing married up with the Dettol brand. As you can see below.

Negatives of this marketing campaign, for me, include…

  • Sure, people are talking about your brand, but they’re mocking about it – a positive conversation would be much more favourable
  • Dettol seem to be the byproduct of the issue, with most energy being directed to the Government’s ‘back to work’ campaign
  • Journalists have used their platforms to pull apart the campaign, not exactly the kind of coverage you want, is it?
  • From a link building perspective, there’s just no positives at all. At the very least if you’re going to go viral, you’re going to want people to link to your site, or for traffic to be directed there.
  • At the end of the day, I can’t imagine many people rushed to stock up on hand wash and sanitiser after seeing these billboards, they were too busy laughing on Twitter instead.

In my opinion, this went viral for all the wrong reasons. What do you think? Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter.

1 thought on “A (Det)total Marketing Failure?”

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