When you’re a huge brand like Calvin Klein, you pretty much have your fingers on the pulse of your fans/customers. After all, you don’t get to be an international success story by employing bad marketing ideas.
However, a recent marketing campaign from Calvin Klein showed that even the biggest brands still get it wrong. When they used reality TV stars The Kardashians to promote their latest product, the pushback was swift and harsh.
In this week’s Marketing on Tap podcast, we discuss the outcry from both Calvin Klein customers and social media users, and what happens when your advertising/marketing targeting is completely off base.
Settle back and enjoy this week’s topic, brought to you in the usual unscripted manner that you’ve come to expect when Sam and Danny take the mic.
If you prefer to listen on the go, the audio version of this week’s episode can be listened to below.
Intro: Welcome to Marketing on Tap, a weekly podcast in which marketing pros and authors Sam Fiorella and Danny Brown serve up the latest marketing hot topics, campaigns and trends, all washed down with a great craft beer. Join in for the fun as they debate the pros and cons of the topic of the week while featuring popular or up-and-coming microbreweries.
Topics include influence marketing, brand campaign successes and misses, customer advocacy programs and marketing challenges facing businesses and agencies. It’s the marketing podcast to listen to for CMOs, Senior Sales Executives, and key decision makers at mid- to enterprise-level organizations. And with their good natured bashing of each other, each episode promises to entertain and educate in each equal measure. Welcome to Marketing on Tap.
Sam Fiorella: Welcome back, everybody. This is Sam Fiorella. My mate Danny Brown.
Danny Brown: Did you just point to me, son?
Sam Fiorella: We haven’t started drinking yet.
Danny Brown: And we get the names wrong. Anyway.
Sam Fiorella: I’m Sam. [crosstalk 00:00:58] And that’s Danny.
Danny Brown: I’m Danny.
Sam Fiorella: For those of you that aren’t following along here, we need one of those little bouncing balls with the names across the top. And welcome back to Marketing on Tap, vlog and podcast, depending upon where you’re participating. Danny, today I wanna talk about a Facebook post that you just put out and it inspired something for me. And that was your comment about the Calvin Klein and the Kardashians’ ad. Your comment was, “Well, that conversation-”
Danny Brown: Escalated [crosstalk 00:01:32] quickly.
Sam Fiorella: Escalated quickly, right? And for those of you that don’t know, Calvin Klein I guess has hired the Kardashians. For those of you that have taken any one of my classes or listened to any one of my key notes you know how much I love the Kardashians. I love to hate on the Kardashians maybe is a better way to put it. But anyway, he got them into a photo where they’re in various stages of undress wearing Calvin Klein clothing. And he thought that that was, or whoever the marketing team was, thought that that was a good idea.
Sam Fiorella: Needless to say, it really backfired on them on social media. I wanna talk a little bit about that. But before we do that, as always, what did you just pour me?
Danny Brown: Well, I saw end of summer’s coming, yeah? Must try a summer beer before it disappears. As I poured, as I smelt an interesting aroma. I’m not quite sure what to make of this. This is Wonderstar, which is a craft lager from the Flying Monkeys guys up in Barrie, in Ontario. It’s a lighter lager, it’s four and a half percent-
Sam Fiorella: Psychedelic can.
Danny Brown: Psychedelic, real psychedelic can. They mix in some juniper, some spices, some citrus. But the aroma’s, that’s interesting. It’s like a shandy, I don’t know if you guys have shandies in Canada. But [crosstalk 00:02:44] it smells like a really lighter shandy.
Sam Fiorella: Yeah, we do.
Danny Brown: Anyway, so. Cheers buddy. Let’s try it.
Sam Fiorella: I know … I’m not, I don’t have confidence. Oh, you can really taste the juniper in there.
Danny Brown: Yeah.
Sam Fiorella: It’s like licking on an evergreen tree.
Danny Brown: Like a juniper stick. It’s different. It’s not something I’d drink a lot of but it’s a nice, easy summer drink. It’s a little bit different from our usual [crosstalk 00:03:11] fare.
Sam Fiorella: Normal stuff, yeah.
Danny Brown: Yeah.
Sam Fiorella: You know what? I’m actually kind of surprised with this one. I wanted to hate it right away but it’s kind of-
Danny Brown: When I saw the color I thought, okay, that’s quite a cocktail coming in. Almost like a rose, like a darker [crosstalk 00:03:24] rose wine.
Sam Fiorella: Well this is the thing. I’m very visual. When I look at the color I’m thinking, okay, this is like an amber. I’m expecting a caramel-y flavor to it which I really like. And this one here is, wow. Well, that’s craft beer for you, you never know what you’re gonna get when you open up one of these cans. That’s actually quite [crosstalk 00:03:40] [inaudible 00:03:41].
Danny Brown: Yeah, [inaudible 00:03:41], isn’t it?
Sam Fiorella: All right. Well, thank you guys. Let’s get back to what we’re here to talk about. But before we do that I do wanna plug something, if we can. For those of you that are in Toronto in October where Danny and I work here, in our offices at Sensei, we’re putting on a one-day influence marketing executive course. It’s on October 24th, check out SenseiMarketing.com for more information. It’s down at the bottom of the page right now.
Sam Fiorella: Anyway give us a tweet, give us an email, give us a call. DM, whatever, if you want a little bit more information. But what we’ve done is I’ve taken our executive three day course that I deliver when we are on site for large brands and I’ve compressed it into almost an executive summer MBA. One day intensive teaching you how to develop your own influence marketing campaign. Check that out if you guys wanna learn more about it on our site SenseiMarketing.com.
Sam Fiorella: Back to the Kardashians. I’ve got it pulled up here ’cause I just love the comments. I know for those of you that podcast you can’t really see this, but go to @CalvinKlein. And take a look at the picture that he posted of the five Kardashian sisters. The Kardashian-Jenners wear new monogram styles from Calvin Klein Underwear, and it’s got them in various clothing. And some of the comments are just hilarious. It didn’t get a lot of retweets, surprisingly. But it did get, not a lot of likes but it did get a lot of comments.
Sam Fiorella: Some of the comments were pretty funny. “There’s more plastic in this picture than in our oceans,” comments [Ian Pledger 00:05:25]. I thought that was kind of funny. And then there was, of course, all the memes come out on these types of things. And you have the-
Danny Brown: Family Guy.
Sam Fiorella: The Family Guy with, “Oh my God, who the hell cares?” was [Gareth Blinkhorn’s 00:05:39] post.
Sam Fiorella: “Why is this in my feed? I mean, like, seriously, Calvin Klein,” [Dr L Jones Junior 00:05:48].
Sam Fiorella: “I’ll never buy your products again.”
Sam Fiorella: And then [James Niel 00:05:53] I think hits the nail on the head which is what I want to ask you. He commented, “When brands don’t understand social media.”
Danny Brown: Yeah.
Sam Fiorella: Right? So, why? What’s wrong with this?
Danny Brown: Well, obviously it’s a, it just seems that it’s wrongly targeted if it’s an ad, for example. If it’s an organic one fine, hang it out there but expect the backlash. But if it’s an ad, clearly the demographic that normally buys Calvin Klein have no interest in the Kardashians. And by all means use celebrity influencers, but I think the Kardashians is probably, as you can see there, the wrong audience by people that would buy Calvin Klein but aren’t gonna buy them any more.
Sam Fiorella: Well, and that’s an interesting thing. Is that really the case, though? Or is this just social media being social media, just hating on everything that goes out there. Let’s play devil’s advocate here for a minute. Kylie Jenner, for example, has a very successful makeup line. She’s a successful model. And I know my daughter, for one, she’s … I have a 15 year old daughter who follows her and looks at her makeup tips and buys Kylie Jenner lipstick. Always when I’m not looking and against my [crosstalk 00:07:00] advice.
Danny Brown: With your credit card online.
Sam Fiorella: Yeah. Well, I made the mistake of giving it to her once and that’s it. Now she keeps buying all of this stuff. There, and my daughter does buy it because Kylie Jenner promotes it. Now, that’s lipstick to a teenager. I doubt my wife would follow that advice and buy anything that Kylie Jenner promotes, but that’s not her audience.
Sam Fiorella: Is it really that bad? Is this just social media? Or did they really misunderstand the audience?
Danny Brown: Well, I think you also have to look at the audience. I mean, you mentioned your daughter, she’s 15. Is she on Twitter?
Sam Fiorella: Yeah.
Danny Brown: Right. Is it the wrong platform for the demographic they’re going after? Obviously here they wanted to go after a certain audience, but possibly Twitter’s the wrong platform. And yeah, we know that social media people love to bitch and just hate on everything given a chance. But I think with the Kardashians especially, with the baggage to a degree that they’ve brought to a lot of their stuff. That’s gonna impact Calvin Klein.
Danny Brown: Calvin Klein’s obviously, they’re smart marketers. Their advertising’s usually bang on. They know who they’re going after. But this one seems to have backfired majorly. And I think that a lot of it’s to do with the wrong audience and the wrong platform.
Sam Fiorella: Well, I think maybe the wrong platform is a good point. The one thing I didn’t mention is that this is, I just noticed now. This is a promoted tweet. [crosstalk 00:08:18].
Danny Brown: Right. It is an ad.
Sam Fiorella: This is an advertisement that went out there. And I’m noticing a couple of people here. “I don’t know why,” or, “I don’t know what you told Twitter when it comes to targeting this ad, but it’s miles off in appearing in my stream,” [Simon Walkens 00:08:36], “Blocked and products vetoed.”
Sam Fiorella: [Neil Balham 00:08:41], “So bleeping what?”
Sam Fiorella: “How much did you get for this shoot? Money wasted.”
Sam Fiorella: “Feed some people in impoverished countries.”
Sam Fiorella: Wow. I mean, it really is FFS. Bye. Sod off-
Danny Brown: Good [inaudible 00:08:59].
Sam Fiorella: Yeah, it’s a good U.K. gap. “The most frightening plastic people cult I’ve ever seen.”
Sam Fiorella: And I think this is one of the things. We’re gonna, I think this idea of celebrity influence is gonna come up a lot. I would agree that this is really off the rails and how brands really just don’t understand influence marketing. There is this idea that celebrity influence still works and while, yeah, we’re talking about it and people that haven’t seen this ad are gonna go and maybe-
Danny Brown: And check it out maybe. Yeah.
Sam Fiorella: Maybe he’s doing the right thing. But is it really right? It’s getting attention, but is it getting the right attention? Social media right now is so volatile that the slightest comment that is maybe misinterpreted can go very wrong, like this one here.
Sam Fiorella: I think that that’s something that brands really need to pay attention to, a little closer to. And there’s a massive risk. Speaking of Kylie Jenner, let’s go and take a look at the, what was the other one that she did with … Pepsi.
Danny Brown: Oh, Pepsi. The Black Lives Matter ad. Yeah.
Sam Fiorella: That’s right. I mean, that’s another really example of how another brand just doesn’t understand the concept of influence marketing. They figured, “Okay. Well, Kylie Jenner is a reality TV star. Everybody knows her. She makes a lot of news. She gets a lot of buzz.” And for those of you … I’m sure everybody knows about this one. But for those few people that have never seen it, in the Black Lives Matter standoff with the police in the United States earlier this year, there was … Or was it the end of last year? Actually I can’t [crosstalk 00:10:30] remember.
Danny Brown: Last year I think, [crosstalk 00:10:30] yeah. It was last year.
Sam Fiorella: Was it last year?
Danny Brown: Yeah. And there was that iconic image of the female protester-
Sam Fiorella: That’s right.
Danny Brown: Standing in a dress up to the charging police.
Sam Fiorella: That’s right. And with the, under the Black Lives Matter campaign. Which is a very powerful image. And Pepsi wanted to co-opt that image and they created a television commercial with protesters standing off against police. You really couldn’t tell what the protest was about but you got the sense they were mimicking what was happening in the news. And then they parade Kylie Jenner out with a Pepsi to say, “This is what’s gonna unify all of us.” Let’s forget that, it’s … What does Kylie Jenner have to do with the Black Lives Matter movement?
Danny Brown: Exactly.
Sam Fiorella: And not having an African American in there, you know what I mean? If they really wanted to represent that, why didn’t they get that same woman who had the courage in a real life situation to stand up to the police? And maybe even that would have been completely [crosstalk 00:11:23] tone deaf.
Danny Brown: I don’t know, I’m probably, I’m pretty 100% sure that the individual girl, the woman that stood up to the police would have said no, she wanted nothing to do with it. ‘Cause it’s such an off base ad and it’s just completely misreading … What sounds like potentially a good marketing idea at the start point, to actually executing it and saying, “Oh, crap, that was really bad. Why did we do that?”
Sam Fiorella: Yeah. I mean, I think a lot of it, this is this desire, I think, for marketers to go viral. Let’s do something that’s gonna be … ‘Cause we know what the good social media content is, right? It has to be newsworthy. It has to be evergreen. And it has to be entertaining. To be newsworthy you’ve gotta capture what’s the public imagination at that time. Something that they’re gonna be interested in right now.
Sam Fiorella: That’s certainly what they were trying to do. There’s a political movement going on, there’s a cultural movement going on in the U.S. Let’s jump on this and let’s be … But they’re hoping, and I know some people that work at Pepsi. They’re good people. They didn’t intend this to go the way that they did. They were just completely tone deaf to what the audience was feeling and how this was going to be interpreted by their audience.
Sam Fiorella: What happened to good old-fashioned focus groups?
Danny Brown: Well, exactly.
Sam Fiorella: You know what I mean? Remember we used to do those [crosstalk 00:12:28] back in the day?
Danny Brown: I used to do focus groups. I took part in focus groups when I first moved to Canada as part of just making money while my PR card was coming through.
Sam Fiorella: I thought you were selling your blood and semen.
Danny Brown: I was doing that plus focus groups to see which blood was best. But yeah. You know who I blame, actually? Is Oreo. With their Superbowl ad. ‘Cause ever since that Superbowl ad when the lights went out, every single brand has tried to get that Oreo moment and a Superbowl moment. And some have even copied Oreo directly. Once you see that you think, “All I need to do is get that one, I wanna throw a 100 out and get one good thing and that’ll give me that-”
Sam Fiorella: Yeah. What’s the takeaway here for a brand? You mean, stay away from political, cultural, real time social media engagements or posts? Although the Pepsi example is not really real time. That was [crosstalk 00:13:12]-
Danny Brown: No, that was-
Sam Fiorella: Planned. They spent a lot of money building that ad.
Danny Brown: Yeah. I think, I mean we spoke about it I think it was last week’s podcast. We were talking about the political side of the craft brew, [crosstalk 00:13:23] buck-a-beer ad thing.
Sam Fiorella: Buck-a-beer.
Danny Brown: And I think there’s a time and a place where you can make a stand and come out and market your product in a political background. Dominion City up in Ottawa did that perfectly with what they’re doing with their buck-a-beer can. But, yeah. I mean, generally I think you have to stand back. Don’t even think it’d be a good idea to try piggy back onto a political movement or a social uprising and think that’s a great way to crash your brand into the marketplace.
Sam Fiorella: Another example just happened in the U.K. Actually, I don’t think it just happened in the U.K. it was a little while, it was about a year ago. Just an example of a tone deaf brand which McDonald’s typically isn’t. I’m really surprised at this one. I don’t know if it’s because it was in the U.K., they’ve obviously got a different agency up there. But they did an ad where they had a mom and her son talking about the guy’s deceased father, her deceased husband. And basically the point that they, the ad was like, “We both love fish filet sandwiches. And let’s talk about your dead dad.”
Danny Brown: Wow.
Sam Fiorella: Let’s remember your dead dad over our love of [crosstalk 00:14:28] fish filet.
Danny Brown: Fish.
Sam Fiorella: Yeah, now. For somebody who’s lost, I’ve lost a son. I can tell you that I took that offensively.
Danny Brown: Right, yeah.
Sam Fiorella: You know what I mean? I mean, I maybe try and understand the idea. You wanna appeal to some kind of nostalgia, some kind of familial connections and how there are certain foods or experiences that make you feel good and warm and fuzzy. But maybe leave that to a Christmas carol or something. In an advertisement trying to relate your product to the death of a family member and somehow making that work is going to come across as tone deaf. Right?
Danny Brown: Yeah, exactly. Yeah.
Sam Fiorella: That makes, that just doesn’t make any sense to me. Anyway, I’m getting the thing, so-
Danny Brown: Now?
Sam Fiorella: We have the bell, guys. We have a special treat for you.
Danny Brown: No special effects either, this is [crosstalk 00:15:18] no CGI.
Sam Fiorella: No, this is real.
Sam Fiorella: It’s last call. We have, after some shameless begging from the audience because we are such a low budget show, one of our viewers and one of our mates over in Scotland felt bad for us. And actually bought us and shipped us a bell.
Danny Brown: A bell. Proper pub bell as well.
Sam Fiorella: And it’s a proper, is it a proper pub bell?
Danny Brown: It’s a style that’s used in the U.K. for last call.
Sam Fiorella: Last call.
Danny Brown: Yeah, yeah.
Sam Fiorella: I remember when we were in the U.K. I saw … they were on [crosstalk 00:15:50] the wall.
Danny Brown: Yeah. On the wall. Yeah, exactly.
Sam Fiorella: A lot of times, which is fantastic. [Steven Sefton 00:15:54], call out, shout out to you. Thank you very much.
Sam Fiorella: Last call. This is gonna be our official last call bell for Marketing on Tap.
Sam Fiorella: Danny. Takeaway. Tone deaf brands. What advice would we be giving brands moving forward to avoid these moments?
Danny Brown: I think it’s what we talk about with our clients. We start with who’s your audience? And who’s gonna be the right people? If it’s an influence marketing campaign, who’s gonna be the right people for that audience? Because clearly the Kardashians for this particular ad was not the right audience. And target your ads properly. Because I don’t know who’s doing the Twitter ads but clearly they didn’t use the filters in the back end properly to filter it out.
Danny Brown: Yeah. Know who it is. Know who you’re going after. And make sure you pick the right influencers that are relevant to that audience.
Sam Fiorella: Yeah, clearly, clearly. And there was certainly no lack of budget here. Calvin Klein has the budget to-
Danny Brown: And the Kardashians aren’t cheap.
Sam Fiorella: No. Exactly. I mean, they spent money on this but they spent so much money on the Kardashians they couldn’t find a good agency that would do the targeting properly. I don’t know. I would add to that, or just maybe go back to what we mentioned earlier. In terms of, besides understanding your audience, don’t jump on the bandwagon. I think a lot of brands have done that. I think Calvin Klein jumped on the Kardashian bandwagon just because they’re Insta-celebrities. They’re Instagram celebrities.
Sam Fiorella: Just because they’re celebrities, just because they have a large following, doesn’t make them influencers. Right? It makes them mouthpieces. And the fact that the bigger they get, the more annoying they are to people and so you’re going to then incur this, or get this backlash from the vast majority of people that really dislike them. That negativity, even if the people who are negative are online trolls only and not your real clients, there’s so much negativity that’s gonna be built around your brand. And then forever you’re gonna be a footnote in all of these blogposts about the worst marketing campaigns of the last five years. You’re just constantly gonna be showing up there.
Sam Fiorella: Right? And the other thing is again avoid cultural, religious, [crosstalk 00:18:00] news stories.
Danny Brown: Appropriation.
Sam Fiorella: Yeah. Just don’t try, unless, do it quietly. You know what I mean? Have your employees get involved in some kind of a charity or some kind of an effort and have the media pick it up. But don’t try and blatantly jump on political, cultural, religious bandwagons for social media campaigns. ‘Cause it’s invariably gonna go wrong for you. That’s basically my last call.
Sam Fiorella: Anyway. This beer is actually really [crosstalk 00:18:26] growing on me.
Danny Brown: I know, it’s really nice, yeah.
Sam Fiorella: I wanna hate it but it is really a good beer. I’m gonna finish this, I’m gonna say goodbye to everybody. Thank you very much for tuning in. Don’t forget if you liked these short 15, 20 minute podcasts, subscribe and you’ll get an alert every Friday when we go live. Or follow us and like us on the YouTube channel if that’s where you guys are. Thanks very much. Until next time, cheers, guys.
Danny Brown: Cheers, guys.
Sam Fiorella: Cheers.
Danny Brown: Cheers.
Outro: You’ve been listening to Marketing on Tap with Sam Fiorella and Danny Brown. If you enjoyed this episode, make sure to subscribe so you don’t miss the next one. And please, feel free to leave a show review. That’s always worth a cheers.