If you don’t laugh, you’ll cry: How brands are using political satire to cut through the noise

In the week following Boris Johnson’s ascension to Office, we’ve been looking into how brands are leveraging opportunities to make light of significant political events in an effort to market their products to consumers.

While many brands have recognised the need to use purpose-driven marketing to connect with consumers, others have turned to humour and political repartee in an effort to drive engagement.

Brands are well aware that shock value is suitable advertising fodder, and following five years of political upheaval, more and more companies are violating the business norm of remaining apolitical and instead turning to political satire as an instrument for self-promotion.

To survive (and ultimately thrive) in this new reality, brands must be agile (and ultimately bold) enough to capitalise on the one-off events that engage the biggest audiences. And with political polarisation now at fever pitch, brands have recognised that the parliamentary arena might be the right space to test the theory.

Beyond this, with viral content resonating far more with a new internet-savvy consumer, creating amusing subject matter that speaks to popular opinion can be a cost-effective means of growing brand stature exponentially. One advert could really change the game!

Here’s how some of our favourite brands have been playing in this space…


With Johnson preparing to step into the firing line as Britain’s next PM, family favourite Weetabix were quick off the mark with some breakfast-based words of wisdom for Theresa May’s successor. In a full-page ad, the iconic black door of 10 Downing Street was overlaid with a provocative strap-line reading “He’s going to need his…Have you had yours?”.

Designed to both prompt current consumers and entice non-consumers, Weetabix managed to leverage a political milestone to heighten brand awareness in the UK.

Playing the Trump card

Following Donald Trump’s senior adviser Kellyanne Conway coining the Orwellian term “alternative facts”, Dove

placed a two-page print ad in a number of U.K. newspapers listing several #AlternativeFacts about its new antiperspirant.

According to the advert, the product “is a really good listener,” knows a dude who can get you on the guest list and “can plan your next holiday at a competitive rate.” It can even improve your wi-fi signal!

Without mentioning Trump, Dove managed to snub the administration’s campaign of disinformation, while also ensuring the brand name remained front of mind and top of feed for a number of weeks after.

Politicians, you either love them or you hate them

Marmite’s historically simplistic marketing style was in full effect as they took fire at the calamitous Brexit debacle, and politicians’ apparent inability to reach a resolution.

Drawing parallels between its famous ‘love it or hate it’ slogan and the controversial nature of the Brexit debate, Marmite invited the public to opt for a ‘Hard Breakfast’, ‘Soft Breakfast’ or ‘No Breakfast’. The tagline ‘dividing the nation since 1902’ playfully mocked the political dispute, whilst also reinforcing its longstanding place amongst other much-loved British condiments.

In a time of loud, video-centric advertising, this great piece of content proves that print ads and clever copy can really make all the difference.

The Human Experience (HX) Learning?

While walking the political tightrope is far from a low-risk strategy, in an era where viral marketing has become ubiquitous, there is a real opportunity for brands to employ wit and provocation to spread influence and drive consumer involvement.

As the political status quo continues to baffle, shock, and frustrate, understanding what message your consumers want to hear is no longer a choice, it’s the imperative. Step changing brand perception now relies on your ability to amuse, inspire, relate to and speak for your consumers.

Simon Hall is a consultant at Brand Genetics, an insight and innovation agency specialising in human-centred insight and innovation. With a background in reinventing big businesses at pace, he has experience in creative problem solving, thought leadership and reframing human insight and has worked in strategy, leadership and change across business sectors.

Human-Centered Insight, Innovation and Trends from Brand Genetics www.brandgenetics.com

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