Is bad PR still a thing?

Written by Beth Cunniffe: Content manager.
· 4 minute read

“There’s no such thing as bad publicity.”


That’s the age old saying. But is it necessarily true? Does it matter whether you’re getting negative or positive attention as a company or brand, as long as you’re getting attention?


In some cases it seems the answer is no. Take Protein World for example. In a previous post discussing whether or not it’s a wise move to base your PR strategy on getting the public riled up, Protein World’s ‘Beach Body Ready’ cropped up as an example of a marketing campaign that really did benefit from negative publicity.



And now they’re back again.


This time they’ve teamed up with ‘Revenge Body’ advocate and member of one of the most famous families in the world, Khloe Kardashian. She’s the face (and body) of their new marketing campaign, promoting their 30-day slender weight-loss plan. The new billboards show Khloe in a revealing leotard with the slogan ‘Can you keep up with a Kardashian?’



Like the ‘Beach Body Ready’ campaign that came before, this marketing material has come under fire for “body-shaming” with critics also slamming Mayor of London Sadiq Khan for allowing the images to be plastered on the London Underground after he vowed to take a stand on this kind of advertising.


Sure, Protein World are getting some negative press, but the company have only paid for some billboards and are now getting free advertising in the press and online. Last time this happened they rode the wave; sticking to their guns, claiming they were targeting their ideal demographic and had done extensive research into their existing consumer base.


And there’s nothing to suggest they won’t do exactly the same thing this time around.


Causing a controversy like this is successful in this circumstance because Protein World are targeting the people who already buy into their brand and ethos. In reality, they’re only angering those who probably wouldn’t have invested in the brand anyway. It’s a win-win.


But not everyone benefits from negative publicity.


Someone should have probably told Goat Cafe in Huddersfield that there’s a difference between producing a divisive marketing campaign that sparks a debate, and downright insulting your customers.


Now, for a bit of backstory on Goat Cafe. They opened in January 2016 as the only vegan cafe in Huddersfield. That’s right. They are the ONLY vegan cafe in the city. Because of that, they were a huge hit, got glowing reviews and even welcomed meat eaters who wanted to try something new. Everything was going swimmingly for Goat Cafe until a few days ago when they posted this update…



On the face of it, it’s not very controversial. Is it a bit pretentious? Yes. Does it make much sense? No. Is getting rid of all but one of your coffees a good business model? Probably not. But what really sent this company into a tailspin were their responses to people on social media.


One Facebook user, named Bethany, who had planned to visit the cafe expressed her distaste for the cafe’s customer service and stated that she wouldn’t be visiting after all. Goat Cafe’s response?


“F*ck you Bethany, and f*ck your plans!”


They also made this Hitler meme.



Then they asked another customer “when exactly are you going to die?”




The bad publicity generated from this Facebook post (which obviously went viral) quickly resulted in Goat Cafe’s rating dropping to 1.7 stars, customer boycotts of the cafe and basically everyone on the planet thinking they were idiots. Their posts did garner a lot of likes and shares, but instead of this equalling a boost in visits and purchases, a la Protein World, it severely damaged their reputation. Huddersfield’s only vegan, and previously very successful, cafe is actually now closed.


Comparing the two brands, there are clear distinctions between them. Protein World are a worldwide brand with products in countless stores and annual profits of close to £3 million, who can get an ambassador as big as Khloe Kardashian. They no doubt have a top marketing agency working for them; carefully crafting the most successful campaigns for them. Goat Cafe are (were?) a small, independent business based in Huddersfield who run their own Facebook page.


Can this difference be attributed to the startling lapse in judgement from Goat Cafe? Possibly. It’s also worth mentioning that Goat Cafe got really personal in their Facebook exchanges whilst up to now, Protein World haven’t responded directly to the backlash.
So what can we take from these two brands. Is bad PR still a bad thing? Well Protein World obviously have a case for arguing no. But try telling the now closed Goat Cafe that there’s no such thing as bad publicity.