Vegan oat-milk brand Oatly just set up a site called FckOatly.
The brand has been in the eye of several storms recently. It has been accused of contributing to deforestation in the Amazon, having a high sugar content and copping out by selling equity to Blackstone.
FckOatly is its response to haters and the company says it is “devoted to helping our fans—and the thousands of people who hate us—better understand everything that’s wrong with our company.”
The actual content of the site, of course, is devoted to rubbishing each accusation one by one.
Oatly’s haters are clearly made of sterner stuff because they have responded by launching a site called FckFckOatly, where you can “confirm your dislike of FckOatly.com” by clicking a button. At last count, 253865 people had clicked.
Patagonia’s “Don’t Buy This Jacket”
Few brands have the courage – or the marketing chops — to pull off bold, counter-intuitive moves. One great example is outdoor clothing brand Patagonia.
In the 2011 Black Friday edition of The New York Times, the brand ran a full-page ad with the headline, “Don’t buy this jacket.” The ad featured a photo of one of their best-selling jackets along with the following message: “This jacket is made from 60% recycled materials. It uses 20 gallons of water in the production process, leaving behind 2/3 the weight in waste. And it generates nearly 20 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions.”
The success of the campaign later led to WornWear, a platform to trade in and buy used Patagonia gear.
The fact that sales rose by a reported 30% after the campaign probably means that it didn’t achieve its intended purpose, but it certainly cemented Patagonia’s image of being a responsible brand.
REI’s “Don’t Shop”
Another example of a brand with a successful “don’t shop” campaign is REI (Recreational Equipment Inc.), a US-based outdoor retailer.
In 2015, REI launched the “#OptOutside” campaign, which involved closing all of its stores on Black Friday (one of the busiest shopping days of the year in the US) and encouraging employees and customers to spend the day outdoors instead. The campaign has since become an annual tradition for the company.
When we looked around to find a counter-intuitive brand move from an Indian brand, we could only think of enterprise software brand, Freshworks.
A year after Girish Mathrubootham founded Freshdesk in 2010, (later rebranded to Freshworks), Mikkel Svane, CEO of competitor Zendesk called them a “A Freaking-RIP-OFF” on Twitter.
In response, Freshdesk created this cheeky website called RipOffOrNot, inviting Zendesk customers to try out their product.
Ignore or Address Haters?
Not every company or brand has the culture or stomach to take a combative stand and there are other ways to address concerns that could impact brand reputation.
However, given today’s hyper-connected world, the worst thing you can do is try to bury them with strong-arm tactics, as in the recent Bournvita controversy.