April Fools PR? OK, careful…

So yet another April Fools has come and gone. Full of great brand jokes (HM x Mark Zuckerberg collection or Honda’s Emoji number plates are the ones I really liked) to those that made me cringe (Google’s Mic Drop PR fail). But the one that I think was just… not right, was Honestbee’s Exotic Meats campaign. Let me explain why.

HonestBee started what seemed to be it’s April Fools joke on 29th March, with a post announcing its rare meats collection. “After months of scavenging, negotiating and sampling, Honestbee has finally managed to get Explorer Joe Exotic Meats onboard as one of our boutique fresh meat merchants”, the post said.


Image: worldxnews

The offer supposedly included the meats of rare and endangered species, such as Koala or Panda, and items like Komodo Dragon eggs.

Needless to say, soon after, the Singapore-based grocery delivery startup came under quite a social media angry storm. The social media audience has quickly expressed its distaste and outrage.

Day prior to April Fools, the startup has released a statement, explaining the stunt and justifying its weird idea.

“Yesterday, you awoke to an email update about honestbee partnering with Explorer Joe Exotic Meats store. This store featured a variety of different endangered species like Pandas, Tigers and Whales seemingly packaged for consumption. The idea that these animals that are on the brink of extinction and yet readily available was probably disturbing to all because even all of us here at honestbee were similarly upset. It was always our intention to drive deep meaningful conversations around this subject.
What compelled us into taking such drastic actions? In recent months, we have found out that these animals; many endangered, can still be quite readily sourced and purchased in many markets around the world and increasingly even online today. In fact, according to the latest reports by World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the world is dealing with an unprecedented spike in illegal wildlife trade, threatening to overturn decades of conservation gains. (…) As honestbee does not condone nor facilitate in the trade of illegal wildlife, we felt it is extremely important and urgent to highlight this global problem so that we, as a global nation, could be aware, enlightened and pro-active in taking measures to stop illegal wildlife trading.” (link to the full statement HERE)

Sure, the cause is great and the intention was there. However, in this case, I think it’s important to underline that the end does not justify the means. Not here, anyway. In PR and reputation terms, I think the startup has gone a bit too far in wanting to be controversial in order to gain audience attention.

One of recent issues of Marketing Magazine comes to my mind, where the hot topic was the value of shock and controversy in marketing and communications. Numerous examples show that sometimes too much is too much (especially one comes to my mind – a Heroin Baby campaign by Bernardo, which was just a bit too much for my taste).

What I think is important for communication professionals is to draw the line which they would never cross. Call it ethics, professional boundaries or common sense. What’s more, it’s important to think whether the audience any campaign/stunt is targeted towards will appreciate and understand the idea behind it. The sole shock value is not going to do the trick and we have seen a lot of confirmations for that.

I cannot deny that shock value has its place in communications. When seeing something controversial, drastic or shocking, people often tend to remember, analyse and engage emotionally with the cause of a campaign. However, there is a line to be drawn. Shock therapy has its consequences and could quickly became mundane, or even – in extreme circumstances – numb the audience and make it quite irresponsive to future communication/engagement attempts. This is specifically relevant for charities, which sometimes decide to embark on a shock-value campaign and which need to remember not to overdo it in order to preserve the effect they wish to achieve.

I think that this particular PR April Fools fail will go down as an example of what not to do to get people talking.


Read more at http://blog.honestbee.com/explorer-joe-exotic-meats/

and http://blog.honestbee.com/stop-illegal-wildlife-trading-now/

Header image HERE


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