Milk brand Oak is not responding to dissatisfaction from two camps of angry social media users after it ran an advertisement that said “HungryThirsty”, the feeling its products try to resolve, was “pathetic like a vegan sausage”.
Hundreds of individuals contacted the brand, which sells dairy products like chocolate milk and iced coffee, on social media to complain about the ad. These objectors are now clashing with another group of customers who are encouraging the business to keep using humour in its advertising.
Customers have hit out at Oak, saying the brand is “unfairly targeting” a group of Australians by singling out vegans, and vegan food, as “pathetic”. Several others have told the company that while they are offended, the most upsetting thing is the company’s insistence on only selling dairy products. They claim they would be happy to buy Oak products if there was a soy alternative.
“Oak is actually showing how behind the times the company is by not offering plant based milks,” said one potential customer on social media.
Oak, meanwhile, have been silent on the issue. SmartCompany contacted the brand’s parent company, Parmalat, for further comment on the motivations for the ad, but was told there was nothing further to say.
Oak is known for its dark advertising campaigns in which the company promises the chocolate milk varieties will “Kill HungryThirsty Dead”. The brand was founded in 1967, but it’s only in the last few years that it has developed the aggressive “HungryThirsty” persona to describe the peckish feeling that its milk products purport to solve.
The brand uses a variety of sports tie-ins with its social media marketing, and while nothing further had been said on the advertising campaign via social media this morning, the company’s most recent Facebook posts are commentaries on sporting events with the “HungryThirsty” tagline tied in. The company has had a sponsorship agreement with the Newcastle Knights rugby league team.
This morning other customers have pointed out that while the vegan community dislikes the ad, it’s still working as a shareable social media campaign.
“Vegans are hating it but they’re still sharing it,” said one customer on Facebook.
“And now I just feel like [having] an Oak.”
Catriona Pollard of CP Communications says the campaign is an intentional act to target one group that the company knows will never consume their product – but that businesses should know that move comes with a risk.
“I don’t think they care about this,” Pollard says. “They have targeted a particular group to make a stronger connection with the genuine audience – but it can be a very dangerous way of creating conversation around the brand.”
“Using social media to amplify the conversation is what this is about, but once this kind of thing is out, it tends to get completely out of control.”
Meanwhile, the vegan community were out in force asking for the company to actually listen to their requests to change the product base. Many suggested that this was the time to grow their audience by adding vegan-friendly and lactose free products.
“You will get the sales. This is what Vegans are looking for. Tell the public you hear them, you were wrong and this is what you’re doing now,” explained one of the most shared responses to the saga.