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Just Because It's a Good Cause Doesn't Mean Your Marketing Shouldn't Be Edgy

Bulging biceps, spray-tans, beer bongs, and a plea to save a sub-culture enshrined on the Jersey Shore: This is not your typical dairy ad. And yet that is what made Organic Valley’s "Save the Bros" campaign so breakthrough when it launched last month.

In the world of sustainability- and cause-related marketing, we’ve come to expect a certain look and feel associated with "green" or "organics": sweeping landscapes, all-white kitchens, adorable kids running through a glorious, lush field. Most ads are similar in aesthetic and messaging because they all go at it the same way — playing up the product’s functional attributes while highlighting its environmental benefits. They are usually earnest and pretty much always forgettable. 

So "Save the Bros," a two-minute video and supporting website developed by Organic Valley for its new "Organic Fuel" protein drink, is not what you'd expect. The campaign parodies charity PSAs with alarming pleas that the "bros" we know and love could become extinct if they continue to drink all the "junk" that exists in their current protein shakes. It’s not only funny, it’s also really smart.

Organic Valley knew it couldn’t go after its traditional audience — moms and household decision makers — with this product. It needed to broaden who it was talking to and appeal to millennials. To do so, Organic Valley felt it had to take a risk and zag from what others in the space were doing.

Boldly centering a campaign around the frat boy term "bros" was a creative way to educate the audience about the bad stuff in most of their protein drinks, without going into boring details or making the audience feel bad. The spot doesn’t belabor the "feel good" aspect of buying organic — it simply reinforces "Organic Fuel" has the "Good Junk."

What’s interesting is how far "Save the Bros" was willing to go in making fun of its potential customer. But upon a closer look, it’s clear that Organic Valley recognized that the self-identified "bros" are just a small segment of its potential market. The point was to create something fun, self-deprecating and youthful to garner attention and drive sales for millennials looking for a healthy, ready-to-drink milk option. And who could they resist the "Buy One Bro One" offer?

Clearly the campaign is working. The "Save the Bros" video has more than 2 million views on You Tube, over 14 million social media impressions, and most importantly, Organic Valley reports a significant increase of product sales since the campaign launched.

Key Take Away:

There is an evolution occurring in the field of sustainability and cause marketing, a latent realization that cause, like traditional marketing, needs to be provocative, disruptive and take risks in order to stand out. Just because a product has positive health features or environmental impact doesn’t mean you have to market it that way. Organic Valley took that risk, living the bro mantra "go big or go home," and it paid off. Other marketing "bros" should take note.

This post first appeared on FastCoExist on April 28, 2015.

Phillip Haid is the Co-Founder and CEO of PUBLIC Inc., a Toronto based cause-marketing agency and incubator that believes profit & purpose should go hand-in-hand. PUBLIC is working with corporations and charities across North America to redefine “social good”… [Read more about Phillip Haid]

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