Of course brands want to be loved. Love equals loyalty, which equals sustained profits. However, with media platforms suffocating us at every turn, being loveable…or even likeable is becoming harder than ever. 

The path linking brands to love is a well-trodden one. And one that customers are all too familiar with…except that the brands still filling their ads full of self-affirming messages are more frequently being ignored.  As a strange rebuttal to trying to be loved, some brands are now taking the exact opposite strategy. And it’s working.

Welcome to the age of hate.

In the context of modern culture, it is not surprising that brands are using this strategy. The rise of scandalous ‘clickbait’ proliferating social media and the endless amount of MTV-esque reality shows, gripping the nation by goading morons to throw punches over ‘who snogged who’ are more popular than ever. What is surprising however, is that sales are following.

The hate strategy takes on many forms. Below, are a few infamous examples of brands that were brave enough to be hated…

  1. Beach body ready campaign. A 250k billboard campaign for female weight loss supplements. Whether or not this was intentionally provocative, this campaign felt like the straw that broke the camels back as people stayed silent over decades of blatant objectification of women in the media. The reaction was huge, with many of the billboards being angrily vandalised. Protein World’s response to the outrage? Fan the flames. Continue to provoke. They avidly defended their work and the noise of the outrage got louder. It spread across the UK press like wildfire. The brand made a cool million in four days. Sinister? Perhaps. Clever? Definitely. The product had enough provocation to get a reaction from an audience who the product was never intended for, who in turn directly raised awareness to their target market.
  1. KFC Dirty Louisiana campaign. KFC is another brand that has released a campaign that demonstrates it understands its audience perfectly. They launched a faux clean eating burger made of cauliflower and grilled plain chicken breast as a ‘prank’ teaser campaign for their latest (and decidedly NOT clean) burger. It got just the reaction they were after. Their existing fans reacted in disdain to the ‘new’ menu item. Calling the brand out for their ‘treacherous’ compliance to the clean eating fad. Of course, this only further promoted the campaign and made the actual burger stand out as something more indulgent. This works because the brand understands who it is and whom it speaks to. Yes it pokes fun at a huge trend, but only further confirms themselves in the minds of their loyal fans.
  1. Monteith cider. Monteith managed to stand out in a cluttered cider market by letting their customers know that their cider contains fresh fruit, not concentrated fruit syrup like their competitors. They put real apple tree twigs into each box of Monteith’s cider and created a campaign around a public apology. Perfect. People took notice. They used their existing customers as a platform to recruit new ones in a very crowded market place. And it worked. Sales of the cider shot up 35% and they received over 50 x the coverage that their original PR budget gave them.

Of course, eliciting any negative emotion is something that has to be treated much more delicately than love. But in a generation where indifference is a brand’s worst enemy, it’s being noticed that counts.