Shit Sugar PR and Aggressive Ladybirds

| March 17, 2016 | 0 Comments

Great PR makes brands fly, setting the stage for marketing success. A sugary drinks industry spokesman wasted a brilliant opportunity on last night’s news, and I can only assume they don’t have a PR partner. The same goes for not-so-lovely-as-it-turns-out Ladybird, whose response to Miriam Elia’s deliciously naughty pastiches paints Penguin books in a poor light.

Sugary drinks PR fail

When brands gets defensive, they lose. I don’t know much about PR but I know positive messages have more power than negative, and simple human kindness goes a long way. Sadly the sugary drinks sector, faced with the Chancellor’s Sugar Tax, went into defensive overdrive.

Their spokesman’s message – basically- was that the promised tax wasn’t fair, and sugar-related issues weren’t their fault. His response came across as sulky, whiny and aggressive. I scented lawyerly advice behind his weasel words, and I cringed.

In a different world, with a good PR agency on board, he might have said something very different. What I wanted to hear, as an ordinary person, was something like this, a plain, simple, honest statement and – surely – a positive PR coup:

“It’s a fair cop. Scientific evidence proves sugary drinks are a factor in obesity. In the USA our counterparts have ploughed a fortune into avoiding change. We’re powerful too, but we’re better than that. We’re going to do everything in our power to reduce sugar in our products. We’ve already started. We’re going to do a lot more. And if we don’t get it done in time for the sugar tax, so be it. The consumer won’t pay. We’ll pay up.”

Ladybird’s kindly image squished flat

The lawyers were at it again, this time (I presume) advising Penguin books sub-brand Ladybird about how to react to a superb set of spoofs of Ladybird’s own spoof series, wickedly parodied by the brilliant Miriam Elia.

The publisher could have benefited from the warm glow of publicity for Elia’s books, but instead they went in with legal guns blazing, brandishing a copyright suit. Sigh. Penguin’s PR people, if they have any, must be wailing and gnashing their teeth. Ladybird’s friendly, sweet, kind brand has taken a nasty battering. And Miriam Elia had the well-deserved and hilarious last word:

“Penguin are a force for goodness, innocence and purity in this shitcan we call life… I would like to apologise to the teams of lawyers who nobly slogged night and day to crush my artistic integrity.” 

Appealing brands don’t let their lawyers do PR

As I said, I don’t do PR. I’m a copywriter. But common sense says if you want your brand to come across as likeable and appealing, don’t let lawyers mess with reputation management. If shit hits the fan, talk to PR experts.

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Category: copywriting and marketing

By Kate Goldstone - ()

Originally from Middlesbrough, I lived in Brighton for many years before moving to North Devon. I’ve had a passion for words all my life and this is my twelfth year as a freelance writer. In my spare time I draw, paint, sculpt, carve wood and rock, garden, read, write poetry and enjoy long distance hiking. I sing and play the recorder. I collect modernist paintings, vintage rugs and mid-century German art pottery. I’m a member of The Poetry Society. And I am an experienced volunteer shepherd, a ‘Lookerer’.

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