When accidental Brand exposure pays off!

Ever heard of Tide Detergent? American brand, big orange container, pretty pricey… Me neither. That is, until a few weeks ago when news stories exploded all over the web about the product being stolen from stores across America.

Ever heard of Tide Detergent? American brand, big orange container, pretty pricey… Me neither. That is, until a few weeks ago when news stories exploded all over the web about the product being stolen from stores across America.

Yes, you read that right. Bizarrely, rather than steal cars, cash registers or wallets, many thieves are stealing Tide Detergent and then selling the stuff on the black market.

You’re probably scratching your head thinking, “why Tide?” Well, according to the authorities, there are several reasons: Tide is instantly recognisable due to its bright orange bottle, it’s one of the most expensive brands of laundry detergent and it doesn’t have serial numbers, so it can’t be tracked.

Bizarre? Yes. Great exposure? Definitely!
Go snooping around social media sites and you’ll hear people blaming the thefts on the tough economy and rising fuel prices. But regardless of the reasons, one thing is for sure; a lot of people are talking about Tide Detergent. And, thanks to this weird Tide theft phenomenon, many of those people (including me) have now had their first encounter with the brand.

Now surely that tells us that this whole Tide theft situation can’t be all bad, can it? In fact, I would go as far as to say these detergent tealeaves are giving Tide some great brand exposure. And that got me thinking, have any other brands had good exposure from random events as strange as this one?

Monica Lewinsky and Club Monaco’s Glaze lipstick 
In 1999, Monica Lewinsky gave an interview with American broadcast journalist Barbera Walters about her alleged fondling with then-President Bill Clinton. At the time, Lewinsky was one of the most hated figures in America, but viewers still tuned in to find out how she managed to snag the world’s most powerful and influential man. And that’s when things got a bit weird…

America may have hated this woman, but that didn’t stop them falling in love with her pout. After the interview the country went barmy for the lipstick Lewinsky just happened to be wearing that day, Club Monaco’s Glaze lipstick. The stuff went flying off the shelves, selling out again and again.

I mean, what’s all that about? Were men buying it for their lovers in some sort of freaky fantasy? Did women believe it would give them the power to seduce influential men? Who knows… but Club Monaco didn’t pay Lewinsky a penny for accidentally endorsing the product, in fact they didn’t do anything at all and still managed to make a fortune from this bizarre sequence of events.

Borat and Kazakhstan
In 2006, the movie, Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan was released. If you haven’t seen it, the movie is a mockumentary comedy featuring fictional Kazakh TV talking head Borat.

In this movie, the relatively unknown country of Kazakhstan is made to sound awful. Borat claims that its national anthem included the couplet “Kazakhstan’s prostitutes cleanest in the region”, and that the Kazakhstan community’s pastimes include hunting gypsies and drinking fermented horse urine.

Doesn’t sound like a place you’d want to go on holiday, does it? Or, at least, that’s what I thought… but after the film’s release, despite depicting Kazakhstan in a poor light, Kazakhstan incredibly received a fourfold increase in tourist inquiries – and is still developing through tourism today.

This change in the country’s economic landscape has even become known as the ‘Borat Bounce’, and has been a huge positive to the communities with very high rates of unemployment.

I guess gypsy hunting is a desirable pastime after all.

Coke and Mentos: an unlikely combination
Do you know what happens when you drop Mentos sweets into a bottle of Diet Coke? You get an exploding Coke Mentos fountain that can shoot up to 20 feet in the air, obviously.

Science teacher, Steve Spangler, tested this strange experiment on TV when he appeared on America’s 9News in 2005. During the experiment one of the anchors was drenched in Coke. 9News posted the footage on their website and Spangler wrote a blog about it. The video then made its way to YouTube, which resulted in hundreds of other videos being posted. Two years later, there were over 12,000 copycat videos.

The exposure created a new association between Coke and Mentos that took both companies completely by surprise. Neither brand could control this new way people (especially younger demographics) were interacting with their products. Weezer, an American alternative rock band even acknowledged the craze by creating Coke Mentos fountains throughout their 2008 music video ‘Pork and Beans’.

Perfetti (the owners of Mentos) must have been well and truly chuffed with the extra attention. The free advertising being posted on the web was worth approximately $10 million to the company, which is half of its annual U.S. advertising budget.

However, Coke seemed less thrilled with the whole affair. “It’s an entertaining phenomenon,” said Coke spokeswoman Susan McDermott. “We would hope people want to drink (Diet Coke) more than try experiments with it.”

Perhaps Coke weren’t happy with the phenomenon because Diet Coke’s image is more Sex & the City than Jackass? Or, maybe they didn’t like the implication that their product was literally explosive? A rumour that actually did the rounds on the internet; when a story gathered momentum about a boy in Brazil who suffered an explosive stomach when he ingested the soft drink and minty tablet at the same time. The Coca-Cola company had to dispel the rumour on their corporate website, and provide an explanation for the reaction Mentos has when added to Diet Coke.

So is all exposure, good exposure, or not?
Of course not. Just take a look at Toyota, once with an impenetrable reputation for reliability, the company was torn to pieces last year by allegations that they have defective accelerators. And what about OJ Simpson? Yes, his murder trial may have brought him a new level of fame, but when people hear his name they’re more likely to picture a criminal instead of a positive brand.

What the examples of Tide and co tell us is that brands are not always in control of the exposure they receive. It can happen at any time and can come about due to the strangest of reasons. So be prepared and be careful not to judge any situation that manifests too quickly. As Club Monaco discovered, accidental brand exposure can offer as many opportunities as it can threats. This is especially true for the smaller, more obscure brands, as even bad exposure may be helpful to someone with little to no reputation (yes, I’m talking to you Kazakhstan).

Discover how Red C can make the most of your brand exposure… call us on 0161 872 1361 today or click here.