Provocative Marketing – Are you brave enough?

By: Richard Michie

Getting your competition to do your marketing for you is is a great marketing strategy. But it takes bravery and trust. Bravery, because you have to go all out, and trust in your ability to not get in the way when it takes off.

This is why lots of businesses shy away from provocative marketing. It’s not a tactic for the faint of heart.

Provocative marketing works best for the under-dog.

Burger King and McDonalds have been doing this dance for years.

Maccy D’s is the clear leader in the burger market worldwide, while Burger King, though still pretty massive, will always be, at best, number 2. No matter how cheeky Burger King are in their social media marketing, tagging their big competitor in sarcastic posts generating huge user engagement, McDonalds never retaliate. Why? Because that would show weakness and do BK’s marketing for them, by showing they are worried, or by seeming to notice at all.

This also gives Burger King total freedom to try lots of ideas that McDonalds would be unlikely to explore. In 2015 they even tried to lure McDonalds in with this Burger King McWhopper Proposal. Ronald didn’t take the bait.

Nike 0 – The Devil 1

In March 2021, Nike sued Brooklyn art collective MSCHF over a controversial pair of “Satan Shoes” that contain a drop of real human blood in the soles. They won the case and MSCHF had to stop selling the shoes. And that’s the end of the story, or so you’d think.

Before the case came to court, all the shoes sold out in one minute for $1,018 (£740) a pair. All Nike achieved by seeking to stop the sale of the trainers was to elevate them from a niche product few had heard of, to hitting the news around the world and raising the profile of rapper Lil Nas X internationally. For the 666 people who bought the shoes, Nike just increased the value and interest in the sneakers immeasurably!

Hey, look at our competitor’s caterpillar!

Marks and Spencer managed a very similar own goal just weeks later in April 2021, when they managed to get Aldi UK all over the day’s news and social media, by beginning to take legal action against Aldi over the Colin the Caterpillar cake. In the process, they simply highlighted the fact that their competitor sells a very similar caterpillar birthday cake, but at a much lower cost.

Cue more sales at Aldi. Aldi 1 – M&S 0.

Even Judge Rinder got involved on the BBC

Meanwhile M&S kept digging!

All these cases are right out of Dave Trott’s marketing toolbox, get your competition to do your marketing for you. It’s worked for years and years, and there are loads of case studies.

But as I said, you need to be brave and have trust if you’re going to pull off provocative marketing.

If you’re up for it, then please get in touch, we’d love to help you.

Interested in speaking to The Optimists?

Right from the beginning of our time working with The Marketing Optimist, they’ve taken the time and effort to get to understand Sharp Consultancy as a business and not just a client. We’ve seen a huge increase in the effectiveness of our social media strategy, particularly on Linkedin and we’re delighted with the impact it’s had on the business.

Jamie Caulfield

Regional Director, Sharp Consultancy

It was a pleasure to work with The Marketing Optimist on this project. It felt like a true collaborative effort on the day and they made the interviewee's feel at ease whilst talking about their journey on our RISE programme. The final video was professional and engaging, we have received great feedback around the quality and creativity of the case study. Including the video in our presentation made it come to life, with real humans sharing their stories, so thank you to the Marketing Optimist!

Hannah Prole

Impact Manager, Better Connect Limited

Case Studies


Marketing for Local Government

Moresby Hall Hotel

Hotel Rebranding

Sharp Consultancy

B2B Social Media for recruitment

The Edit LDN

Managing advanced eCommerce SEO

Better Connect

Digital PR and video production for events

Tango Networks

Marketing support for a global telecoms business

You may also like…

Here comes another Google Core Update

Here comes another Google Core Update

Google Core Updates come in waves. Each time one is announced, the SEO internet goes crazy. Rumours swirl around about how the changes will affect how websites rank. SEO’s on Twitter (sorry X), LinkedIn and now TikTok will begin sharing charts and graphs showing how...

Get to the Point 4th Edition

Get to the Point 4th Edition

While most people are slowing down, The Marketing Optimist are gearing up for 2024. So we are really pleased to announce the 4th Edition of Get to the Point will be held on 19th March Santander Work Cafe, Leeds! If you’ve not come across Get to the Point before, there...

Get to the Point Leeds Digital Festival 2023

Get to the Point Leeds Digital Festival 2023

In our second year of running Get to the Point at Leeds Digital Festival, we decided to step up our game a little and move to the offices of Glean at Leeds Dock. With improved tech and lovely surroundings, we brought nine great speakers to this year's Get to the...

The biggest trend in SEO

The biggest trend in SEO

The future of SEO is always a mystery, and those who try and predict how it’ll change are certain to be proved wrong. Regardless, I’m going to stick my neck out, and hope I’m wrong in my predictions. AI Generated content is going to be the biggest trend in SEO...

When did you last check your website?

When did you last check your website?

When did you last check your website? I bet you haven’t done that in a long time. Don’t look now, you need to read this first. You probably looked at it a lot when it was new and still on your mind. But a few months later you probably stopped checking. It’s normal....

Social Media Marketing Executive Job

Social Media Marketing Executive Job

We’re looking for a Social Media Executive to join The Marketing Optimist. We’re growing fast and we’re looking to add a social media marketer who wants to expand their existing strategic marketing skills on some really interesting and diverse clients. You’ll need to...