Nando’s Schapelle Corby ad sparks controversy – is it too much too soon?

Fast food chain Nando’s latest advertisement latching onto Schapelle Corby’s release from prison yesterday has sparked controversy, with some believing the restaurant has taken things too far and others coming in to bat for the brand.

The restaurant posted an image on its Facebook page yesterday reading, “Schapelle, now that you’re out, try our delicious Peri-Peri Chicken… the only bars you’ll see are on our grill.”

The post attracted almost 3000 likes in less than 24 hours, almost 700 comments and more than 1200 shares.

Marketing Angels founder Michelle Gamble told SmartCompany guerrilla-style, attention-grabbing marketing is a common tactic.

“You see people piggy-backing off large events like Australia Day or the Olympics quite often, but it’s rare to see them jumping onto someone or thing which is controversial,” she says.

“I think Nando’s are treading a fine line in terms of what’s offensive marketing and attention-grabbing marketing. But in terms of getting the brand in front of people and getting exposure it would definitely have achieved that.”

Gamble estimates the brand would have achieved hundreds of thousands of dollars in free publicity through the divisive ad.

In response to the post some commenters made light of Schapelle’s situation, others supported the brand and many were critical, saying they would boycott the business.

Facebook user Chelsea Beth said the ad was “distasteful and inconsiderate” to Corby and her family, while Jarod JR Mellor said a better ad would have been “Schapelle, your biggest crime was missing out on 10 years of delicious chicken.”

In response to one of the complaints Nando’s responded by saying it has built its reputation on being “a bit challenging and cheeky”.

“We celebrate individualism and the right to free expression. It’s not our intention to offend people, just to be a bit tongue-in-cheek with something that’s gaining a lot of media attention. We wish Schapelle and her family all the best,” Nando’s said.

Gamble says brands are generally better to avoid controversial issues.

“It’s much better to be positive with your marketing messages rather than to hijack what’s a negative thing in Schapelle’s imprisonment,” she says.

“But she will milk it too. Her story is huge and it (Nando’s) knows it and is leveraging off it.”

This isn’t the first time a business has grabbed onto such an event. A Queensland business was forced to retract a campaign last year where it said it would donate electrical generators to the victims of the Tasmania bushfires for every “like” it received on its page.

Three years ago electronics retailer Bing Lee was slammed after offering a similar proposal during the Queensland floods and in 2012 Kia was criticised for its Facebook ‘likes for food’ campaign where the carmaker said it would donate to World Vision in exchange for Facebook likes.

Gamble says brands would do well to steer away from events which involve human suffering.

“It can leave a bad taste in people’s mouths and it leaves a negative impression of the brand,” she says.

“People do remember it. The hype around it is short term, it won’t be part of the conversation for long, but when people think of the brand it will still be part of it.”


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