How to use a parody to your brand's advantage

Thu, 27/09/2018 - 08:00

We have all seen it. The parody advertisement poking fun at another brand (and, often, getting away with it), calling out their slogan, logo or products. While it might seem like it will end up being a PR disaster, there are other ways to handle a parody of your brand. You do not have to spend hours coming up with a campaign to appease consumers after they have seen the parody skit or advertisement. You can, in fact, use it to your brand’s advantage. 

Use it as publicity

We all remember Volvo’s “Epic Split” advertisement for their trucks, featuring Jean Claude Van Damme performing his famous splits on two moving Volvo trucks. It caught the attention of actor Channing Tatum, who performed a spoof of the advertisement by balancing on two wonky catering carts on a film set, eventually falling off and hurting himself. 

This was just one of the parodies that Volvo faced after their Epic Split ad aired, but they handled it in the correct manner. In fact, the parodies had thousands of views, which gave Volvo a lot of publicity. You should embrace the parody of your brand (granted it is positive and lighthearted) and use it as publicity. Instead of sending out “cease-and-desist” orders, you can send out a “proceed-and-permit” letter. This will show consumers that your brand has a sense of humour and will increase publicity around your products. 

Use it to do good

Recently, filmmaker Luke Aker parodied Nissan while he was trying to sell his 1996 Maxima on Craigslist. Nissan reached out to Aker in a positive manner, instead of taking him to task for copying their advertisement. One of the social team specialists from Nissan’s marketing agency found the spoof and worked out a way to praise him for his creative and entertaining marketing efforts. 

Nissan took it one step further than simply “liking” the video. They purchased the Maxima from Aker and also gave him $1000 for the charity of his choice. This is the perfect example of how the human behind the brand’s Twitter account was a positive influence, giving back to charity and helping a consumer. You can address the issues in the parody and use them to do good for a community or charity. Not only will you be helping people, you will be giving your brand a more human face, which can work in your favour when it comes to attracting consumers. 

Remember to act “smart”

Very often, brands spend huge amounts of money to seem approachable, friendly and customer-facing. However, their reactions when the spotlight is thrust upon them are anything but. The reactions can be awkward, strait-laced and lacking in the very humanity they seek to cultivate.

Instead of worrying if a parody on your brand will look bad, act “smart” and interact with the brand or person who has parodied you. One instance of a brand acting “smart” recently is McDonald’s. Two college students, Jevh Maravilla and Christian Toledo, created a fake poster of themselves biting into McDonald's burgers and placed the poster on an empty wall in the restaurant. Flash forward a few months, after Maravilla and Toledo appeared on The Ellen Degeneres show, McDonald’s offered the two students a legitimate job creating an advertising campaign for them. Embracing the joke is better than reacting negatively, especially in the eyes of consumers. 

Pre-empt parody by parodying yourself

If you would prefer your brand not to be parodied, you can parody yourself. A perfect example of this is Old Spice, whose advertisements have become “self-spoofs”, especially their “Smell like a Man, Man” campaign, which was almost a parody of their 1970s classic advertisements. By pre-empting the parodies, you can control the situation and impress consumers. 

However, you will need to be very careful when parodying yourself. You still want your brand to be taken seriously, so be sure that you do not create an advertisement that turns consumers off of your brand. Google and Nestle spoofed themselves effectively when the Android Operating System KitKat was released. KitKat released an advert with the “chief breaks officer” explaining why the latest version of KitKat was the future of confectionary, done in the style of an Android release video. Parodying yourself opens your brand to a new audience too, one which appreciates brands being more down-to-earth. 

Mitigate, don’t litigate

You should try to avoid taking legal action against a parody unless it has an inherently negative or harmful message about your brand. Rather, react in a positive way and use the parody to attract publicity and attention. You can use a parody to do good and donate to a charity or help a consumer out of a difficult situation. 

Remember to be proactive rather than reactive and interact with those who are parodying you. Your reaction to the spoof is going to be more closely watched than the actual spoof itself, so remember to be smart and mitigate rather than litigate. 

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