So often great brand engagement hinges on tapping into topics to which readers can relate. Sometimes a brand can strike gold using a red-hot pop culture nod ripped from today’s headlines. Other times, still-scandalous names and faces from the past can infuse a campaign with a one-of-a-kind buzz. But digging into the past can occasionally open old wounds and tick off consumers. For example, Flying Dog Brewery turned its clock back to 1990 last week for a promotional poster for a party in Washington D.C. — and not everybody was amused.
“Crack One Open, D.C.” sounds like a harmless enough slogan for a new beer release party held in our nation’s capital. Oh, but that little sentence takes on a whole new meaning when placed next to a picture of former Washington D.C. Mayor Marion Barry. The folks at Flying Dog Brewery couldn’t help themselves when they placed Barry’s photo next to the slogan in question (clearly making a reference the politician’s infamous 1990 arrest). For those who don’t remember, Barry was busted for smoking crack with his mistress at a Ramada Inn. The clever flier and poster circulated around D.C. last week to promote its first canned beer, UnderDog Atlantic Lager. The ad went viral and was a runaway hit on the company’s Facebook page.
Not surprisingly, Barry and his people were not amused. By late Friday, Flying Dog complied with a cease and desist they had received from Barry’s office. Crack joke aside, Barry could definitely be considered an underdog. After serving time, Barry went on to serve four terms as mayor. He’s a beloved D.C. icon, but the 20-year-old scandal is one some still see the humor in. Both Barry and Flying Dog trended on Twitter over the weekend, so neither brand was worse for the wear after all is said and done.
The main thing this Barry bungle brings up is how sensitive some folks are over celebrities images and likeness. Usually these are fans or people who don’t know the person in question. Blogs about the flyer are filled with comments rushing to Barry’s defense and shaming Flying Dog. So, readers, it’s your turn to sound off. Is this Barry wisecrack hilarious or does it fall flat? And do we as marketers have to constantly watch our backs when parodying celebrities? Sound off below!