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How Aggressive Should The Tone Of A Marketing Campaign Be?

Tone is a critical part of any branding or marketing exercise, and one of the first questions a branding agency will ask is about the impression the band wants to ultimately present to its potential audience.

There is a fine line that needs to be walked when it comes to how aggressive a sales pitch is. If a brand is too passive then an audience may not even be aware of the option, but being too aggressive can deeply dissuade an audience.

Most marketing campaigns are somewhere in the middle, being informative and making strong claims based on their most effective unique selling points but not shouting at an audience that can hear them just fine and will listen to sensible selling points.

There are exceptions, but if anything they prove the rule. Arguably the most infamous example of this is the rather strange decision by Weetabix in the 1980s to design a gang of skinhead mascots to vaguely threaten a family audience to eat the filling cereal.

The Weetabix Gang, a group of five cartoon mascot characters wearing Dr Martens “bovver boots”, white shirts, blue jeans, bracers and a big red badge, advertised the eponymous breakfast food between 1982 and 1989 and were very successful and well-remembered at the time.

This does not make the decision to model them based on a subculture that by 1981 was associated with hooliganism and associations with political extremism any less baffling. 

Not helping this was the slogan: “If you know what’s good for you”. Whilst in the context of the advert it was a reference to the claimed nutritional benefits of Weetabix, it comes off as unintentionally rather sinister.

What did not help was the increased association skinheads had with football violence and hooliganism, described by the European Parliament in the 1990s as “by far the most worrying development” since 1985.

Weetabix managed to get away with it, likely helped by the high quality of the adverts and the catchy jingle, but an overtly aggressive marketing campaign should only be done with extreme care.

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