Does entertainment always have to be enjoyable?
I realised the other day that the reason I like Marmite is because I’m not sure I like Marmite. It’s like scratching an itch and it got me thinking, does entertainment always have to be enjoyable?
Slightly late to the game, I recently watched Mother!, directed by Darren Aronofsky. I’m a big fan and I feel all of his films are to be endured as much as they are to be enjoyed. He wants to challenge us, to evoke a feeling and not always a good one. For that reason his work is often considered Marmite by critics.
Regardless of which side you stand on, it’s an approach that has won him critical acclaim. But does this approach work for brands or is it too much of a commercial risk to turn off a portion of your audience?
Oscar Wilde suggested, “There is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.”
I don’t think it’s as simple as all news is good news for brands though. There is still a place for powerful controversy.
Gourmet Burger Kitchen recently angered non-meat eaters with their cheeky meat loving campaign by quite deliberately gunning for vegetarians. An image of a cow with the slogan, “We eat grass so you don’t have to” and a juicy burger with the slogan, “Vegans, resistance is futile.”
This for me hit the sweet spot of generating conversation and notoriety without overstepping the mark, and I’m a vegetarian.
But this wasn’t the case for the Kendall Jenner Pepsi commercial, which was pulled within hours of release. The star has no connection to politics and the commercial sees Kendall offering a Pepsi to a police officer to stop a riot focused too much on the drink and not at all on real issues.
A month later, Heineken explored similar territory but to rave reviews. In “Worlds Apart,” pairs of strangers were asked to complete an activity together before they found out they had polar opposite political views. The pairs were then offered the opportunity to sit down and engage in a discussion over a beer or leave. All of them chose to stay and discuss their differences.
The difference between the ads is how they incorporated the controversial topic. Honesty from the subjects and self-awareness from the brand is what set this advert apart from Pepsi.
Marmite content, it’s food for thought. I’d love to know your opinion.