The PR professional should stand firmly against intolerance so consumers don’t have to
The Bristle Group, a multinational branded venture-capital conglomerate, has a proud history of successfully tailoring its flagship brands to minority lifestyle choices, establishing meaningful connections with niche demographics to better sell them Bristle Airlines, Bristle Records and Bristle Vodka. But Bristle mysteriously discarded the winning formula when diversifying into wellness dog food, and Bristle Farmhouse Gel Glops, a range of indulgent recipes tailor-made for the discerning pooch, consequently struggled to compete with more established rivals in the lucrative psycho-spiritual wet and dry sector.
Under the misguidance of its previous PR team, Kriegal Co., Bristle repeatedly squandered £1 million of its annual marketing budget on sponsoring Crufts, a blunt, haphazard appeal which failed to reach enough of the right people and inadequately touched those it did. Yet as rudimentary research makes abundantly clear, the owner who pays a premium for high-end kibble tends to consider himself a good progressive, and as a consumer who is both liberal minded and socially concerned, he is thus susceptible to purpose driven appeals championing major acts of altruism.
Bristle may make ethically sourced dog food, but Good Ship Atrium knows that Bristle’s customers are not buying a sachet of human grade animal derivatives, they are buying a product that speaks to their philanthropic priorities. Costed activity for a worthy cause delivers better reach than a passive promotion of Best in Show, and by being seen to be making the world a better place, firms can appropriate the anxieties of consumers who feel they should be doing more, articulating a brand’s holiness to drive greater customer acquisition of a most loyal kind.
In 2012, after we took over the account, Bristle launched a decade long, ten million-pound initiative to train and maintain skilled assistance dogs, with every packet of Gel Glops sold contributing toward their noble project, which aimed to provide scores of severely disabled children with companions for life.
Bristle updated followers with heartrending tales of transformed young lives, such as the profoundly autistic kid relying on a loyal collie to help with everyday tasks, and the teenager in a quasi-vegetative state given hope by his retriever’s unconditional love. In 2013 we caught up with Lilly, 11, a child with Downs Syndrome, who claimed Dusty was her only true friend, and in 2015 we saw how Trixie was enriching the life of Jack, 7, a wheelchair user with cerebral palsy, in an ongoing narrative which saw Bristle dominate the market in nutritionally balanced meat-based gravies.
But then, in late 2016, our behavioural algorithms were upended by the surprise election of vulgar authoritarian Donald Trump, the fully-formed cartoon ogre creating an immediate and highly monetizable emotional contagion, as those horrified and outraged surrendered independent thinking and became of one mind. 82% of luxury dog food consumers signed petitions against xenophobia, and 74% joined rallies holding placards decrying sexism, so we advised Bristle CEO Ian Shipman to harness the macrotrend by denouncing America’s president-elect
Bristle’s succulent Farmhouse Gel Glops stands for everything that Trump’s bigoted rhetoric is antithetical to. We are not voiceless, and we will not be silent on issues that threaten the values of our community
To ride the common basis of appeal Bristle needed a politicised pooch who would literally speak up against hate, so we diverted £1million of the Gel Glops marketing budget on an experimental colony in Mumbai, where a variety of breeds were immobilised in stocks and put through their paces. A trial involving strings, pulleys and a drill led to more sophisticated exploratory methods, and after drugging subjects with high doses of benzodiazepines, a breakthrough arrived through a surgically manipulated weakening of canine oesophageal muscles.
Shipman then invited our talking dog to a recuperating break on his private estate, for a long walk around the grounds and a good-natured tussle with a stick, as every scene of spontaneous fun was recorded and posted on Bristle’s corporate website. Ian shared the clips on his personal Facebook account before updating followers 27 times on Twitter, with the exclusive video images of Shipman grooming Alice – a German Shepherd trained to repeat ‘Fuck Trump’ in a rapid string of stutter-barks – proving so popular a stunt it cemented Bristle’s marketing template for the next four to eight years.