Marketing in a Politically Correct Culture- Is it possible?

It’s a rainy, humid Tuesday here in CT. Hope you all had a great day and the week is going well.

Let’s all hop in the DeLorean with Doc Brown and go back to the late 90’s, do you recall the border pushing ad campaigns GoDaddy ran during the Super Bowl? Do you recall how successful they were and how much those ads helped build GoDaddy as the major corporation it is today.

Now flash forward to 2018, could you imagine an ad executive even recommending an ad campaign as edgy as that? I guarantee if they ran it this would happen:


I am approaching my mid-40’s and grew up with reruns of “All in the Family”, “The Jeffersons” and was a devoted watcher of “Married with Children”. These shows were absolutely brilliant and comedy gold. According to the standards of today, they would be called offensive and probably get boycotted off the air. Just this year, the Netflix series “Insatiable” ran into PC outrage over concerns the show was “fat shaming”.

The marketing of the 80’s and the 90’s always pushed boundaries and sometimes they crossed that line. However, creativity was not infringed on by a culture that was too easily offended and had the ease of social media channels to start #boycotts and to flood corporations with complaints. If an ad was too racy or “offensive”, the corporation would pull it down and issue an apology.

This long preamble leads me to my topic – in an age of easily offended people with hair trigger social media fingers – is it possible to be creative and to really market a product or service. George Carlin, in 1972, came up with his now-famous 7 words you can’t say on TV. In 2018, there are 7,000,000 questionable words and you can’t say them anywhere!!!! How are marketers supposed to navigate these troubled waters for themselves and their clients?

In my opinion, the answer is segmentation of marketing concepts/campaigns. This segmentation has to be done generation ally.  The messaging to the Millennial and younger consumer has to be different than to your Gen X and older customer base.

Millennial and Younger Consumers:

Millennial and younger consumers are by and large the ones who are easily triggered. To effectively market to this group, you need to make your pitch socially conscious. It’s not enough to talk about the benefits a product or service has to offer the consumer, but you have to highlight how it’s serving a greater purpose. For example, a company like Honest Diapers does this well. Honest Diapers are an organic, eco-friendly alternative to more generic brands like Pampers. The benefits that matter most to the younger mothers are not just the quality of the diaper, but the fact they are eco-friendly. This captures both brand quality and social consciousness perfectly.

To get more edgy with the younger consumer, it’s important to know what they consider boundary pushing. Social diversity is a key component to this demographic. Marketing creative that celebrates this diversity or mocks how older generations “just don’t get it” would work well for this group. It also allows for more edgy and fun marketing concepts.  Finding topics that they feel can push the boundaries is the best way to recapture some of the fun marketing ideas from year past.

Gen X and Older Generations:

Gen X and older consumers offer more flexibility when it comes to pushing the envelope with marketing concepts. As I noted earlier in this blog post, these generations grew up with the likes of George Carlin, Richard Pryor, Eddie Murphy, Redd Foxx and Andrew “Dice” Clay. They supported these edgy comics and are more amenable to ad campaigns that might not be politically correct.

Marketing creative that plays on nostalgia works well for this group. This nostalgia can hearken back to some of the  edgier comics mentioned above and you can be a little more free and loose with the copy used.

In closing, marketing in 2018 is trickier than ever, but it’s possible. Just know your audience and what works for each segment of your customer base or prospecting universe. And sometimes, just sometimes, throw caution to the wind and go for that edgy marketing creative – in life, as in marketing, you have to roll the dice to win.

Have a great night!!!!


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