In the spring of 2015, Protein World (a supplier of workout supplements) unveiled their “Are You Beach Body Ready?” campaign, renting advertising space on billboards and trains, supplemented by postings on social media – most notably via Twitter. The campaign poster included a slender, toned, young woman donned in only a bikini, asking the audience a simple question – are you beach body ready?
This move served to contradictingly both comply with and completely subvert the findings outlined by Noort and Willemsen (2011), in which the key take-away was that companies can help to mitigate damage through responding quickly and directly to negative online conversations, while striving to “improve brand evaluations by showing that they take the problems of customers seriously”. But surprisingly, not taking customers seriously (but still taking the time to respond to them) appeared to work in their favour, with the company reportedly generating an additional £1 Million in sales as a result of the backlash (Brinded, 2015). But this raises a question difficult to answer – would they have been more successful if they hadn’t taken to insulting and marginalising a large section of the public?