Bad Boy Brands – fatal attraction?

By Michael Mark, Creative Director/CEO @NYCA 

Frigging Manny Ramirez got me thinking. Well, actually it’s the people who are buying his jersey now, since he’s been suspended from baseball for steroids, who’ve got me scratching my head.

Why would they want to wear his shirt, his name, his dreadlocks, now? If they want to align with a profeadvert-dean-gap_lgssional ball player with equally impressive stats, they can choose others. I guess they like being associated with a bad boy.

And that got me thinking about bad boy brands. Do they sell? Can they sustain a relationship or are they stunt workers?

The Gap used James Dean (by today’s standards a weenie but considered by many to be the original bad boy) posthumously for one campaign, to give generic khakis attitude.

Howard Stern’s grossness put Snapple on the map – and got him kicked off the air, too. And let’s be fair to the bad girls for fear they’d kick my butt: the used-to-be-hot Paris Hilton has or had a perfume, a clothing line, a shoe line, a TV series (I liked her in that for two episodes).

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The controversy-magnet Madonna starred in a TV spot for Pepsi, only to get it pulled. Sacrilege wasn’t the choice of the next generation back in 1989. She kept the $5 million.

 

 

As for product brands with attitude, here are a few:

Axe Body Spray for young men show girls get a sniff, girls go wild, boys are devoured. Sales are up. Makes sense; youth is a natural with brands that reject the status quo. Harley Davidson, the eternal renegade, has theme restaurants for those who weren’t born to ride but live to eat Bad Boy. They are the best at being Bad. Carl’s Jrs.’ commercials get their customers hungry for more than meat. 

 

Paris made a spot for them too, cleaning a car with her body while eating a burger.  Big idea? No, but that’s clearly not the point. The idea is it’s a bad idea.

But not all bad is good. You think Hertz would take back OJ if they could? You think McDonald’s has forgotten Kobe’s extramarital encounters? He was off the payroll faster than he can turn and shoot. So I guess when it comes to brands, there’s Bad and there’s bad.

There’s a PR campaign coming out for Michael Vick. Are you going to buy something from him? How about dog food? On the other hand could a hybrid have a nasty attitude? I’d like to see a touch of road rage among all the pretty puffy clouds and spinning odometers.

Last week’s “American Idol” finale featured the black leathered eyeliner and nail polished Adam vs aw-shucks missionary Kris – a sanitized bad boy vs every Dad’s dream for his daughter. America voted for Mr. Clean.  That’s ok Adam, maybe you’re not a bad boy if you’re too popular?

In the end, it is a rare brand that can sustain a pure bad boy reputation and relationship on a mass scale.

Just proves that, like Manny, bad boys make you think but are hard to live with.

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