Insights - Brand & Marketing

Counter-Intuitive Brand Moves

Following Oatly’s recent move to set up a site to address its haters, we do a round-up of other bold, counter-intuitive brand moves.

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.

screenshot from fcfckoatly site asking visitors to click on confirm button
Oatly haters have responded to FckOatly by setting up FckfckOatly

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.”

Patagonia dont buy this jacket ad
Patagonia’s Don’t Buy This Jacket ad ended up increasing sales, but also consolidating the brand’s image

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.

RESI bstore with banner that says rei is colsing on black friday. optoutside

Freshworks “RipOffOrNot”

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.

Screenshot of Ripooffornot website launched by freshworks founder

Read this great summary of Freshworks’ memorable branding journey

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.

Know a brand that launched a counter-intuitive initiative to take on haters? Tell us in the comments

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