Twitter to Labatt: “We Beg to Differ!” This quirky and macabre little illustration by pop artist Gary Baseman was used a few years ago in Labatt’s Blue ad campaign: “A lot can happen. Out of the Blue.” Indeed it can… let’s hope the brand magicians at Labatt can put this one back together.
Out of the Blue.
It’s true. A lot can happen like that.
You can be sitting at your desk working when a strange Tweet appears in your stream about a severed foot being mailed to the headquarters of the Conservative Party of Canada. Whoa. Weird.
Or next, it can happen that a weird, twisted news story unfolds in all its evil awfulness on every media channel, so you can’t even listen to the news or look at a news site online while your kids are in the room. Weird, and annoying.
Then the story can get worse with tales of kitten killing, serial-killer-dating, and cannibalism. Weird, annoying, and kind of upsetting, because it became clear very quickly that all this was being staged by one narcissistic young slimeball to have exactly the effect it was having.
Then the Internet good guys can rally their troops to try and help find the guy, and the guy can be caught. Because he was Googling himself for hours in a public Internet cafe. A great relief actually (and can we get a clean-up at terminal 7?)
And we hoped, such a capture can signal the end to the stupidity, butchery, and media manipulation.
Seriously. All of that can happen.
But then, you know what else can happen? Out of the Blue?
Someone working at a major Canadian consumer beer brand – let us call that brand “Labatt” - sees that the Montreal Gazette has skimmed a photo of the evil perpetrator from the (do I even need to say “alleged” any more?) killer’s Web site. The photo is splashed all over their online coverage like so factory-produced beer across a freshman dorm room.
And, horrors! In the photo he is holding their product Labatt Blue!
Board rooms are booked. Meetings are convened. People speak in urgent voices.
There is a BAD man. In a PUBLIC newspaper. Holding OUR BEER!
Suitable horror is expressed by all, minions and executive washroom keyholders alike, and a powerful, simple idea emerges:
we must protect our brand!!!
Now this is where, out of the blue, somebody got the idea. An idea which isn’t a bad idea if you’re the sort of person paid to have such ideas. It just seems that way to the rest of us…
They send a lawyer’s letter ordering the Montreal Gazette to take down the photo.
So what happened then?
- The Gazette lawyers respond agressively
- The Twitterverse (which is also full of journalists) erupts after @acoyne coins the hashtag #newlabattcampaign
- @Dabitch summarizes all this beautifully.
- Labatt sheepishly withdraws its complaint
- UPDATE: The media and blogosphere have a field day dissecting the incident.
There’s a name for all of this, as Dabitch reminds me: “the Streisand Effect”, wherein a brand tries to “protect” itself from a media storm but ends up wading into an even deeper mess. And you’ll note that Labatt has already secured itself a spot on the Wikipedia listing for Ms. Streisand’s eponymous Effect. How’s that for exposure?
But the part that got me was this quote from Labatt’s vice-president of corporate affairs:
“Once the Gazette explained their position, we promptly thanked them for their response, dropped the matter and we will not be following up further,” Charlie Angelakos wrote in a statement. “Our goal was simply to protect our brand.”
Now dear readers, you tell me: is that how brands are protected?
Or is it perhaps how brands are dismembered, cannibalized, and made notorious for all the wrong reasons?