While geared to boost exposure, campaigns must strike right balance and should not promote bad behaviour as they may influence cultural norms, perceptions: Expert

PETALING JAYA: Retail companies must exercise caution when devising marketing campaigns, as missteps could tarnish their reputation, said Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) marketing and retail programme course coordinator Dr Muhammad Azman Ibrahim.

Last week, a video shared by a Facebook user showed a “one-on-one” fight between a convenience store owner and another man in Seberang Jaya, Penang.

The man was wearing a white singlet, which inspired some retailers to create marketing campaigns promoting white singlets.

Chain retailer Aeon also launched a marketing campaign on social media, featuring an image of a white singlet with the slogan “comfortable to wear in all situations”.

It was accompanied by a caption announcing that Aeon was offering singlets for sale and inviting the public to visit its stores to purchase them.

Aeon could not be reached for comment.

Mydin Mohamed Holdings Berhad, which runs Mydin stores and malls, also ran a campaign leveraging on the white singlet trend. Its X account featured a white singlet with the caption “comfortable for sleeping”.

Both campaigns prompted a flood of reactions, linking them to the video.

Mydin head of marketing and brand communications Hussain Karim Ally clarified that the company has no intention of “attacking” individuals in the video.

“Our marketing team identifies viral trends and relates them to the brands we sell at Mydin. This post is part of our strategy to promote our products and emphasise our brand to boost sales.

“It helps people become aware of the items available at Mydin, and is not meant to make light of violence in any form.”

Hussain said their viewers often connect content with viral trends since Mydin’s audience consists mainly of young, social media-savvy individuals.

“So, they understand what’s happening and relate it to our content.“

Muhammad Azman describes this type of marketing campaign as “Guerrilla Marketing”, which involves the use of unconventional and creative strategies by a company to achieve maximum exposure and engagement with minimal resources.

“Such marketing campaigns are designed to catch people off guard and provoke strong emotional reactions, encouraging word-of-mouth promotion and online sharing.

“Whether it’s appropriate for retail companies to use videos depicting bad behaviour as a marketing tactic is a complex issue.

“The approach is clever and humorous, as they promote products by playing on an issue without endorsing violence.”

He said leveraging viral content to capture attention is a common strategy in marketing due to its potential to reach a wide audience quickly, adding that it is important to avoid appearing to support or encourage negative behaviour.

He added that in the current case, the campaigns appear to adopt a tone of light-heartedness and humour, positioning content as playful rather than serious endorsements of fighting or trouble making.

“The key factor is public perception. If the public sees the campaigns in a light-hearted vein, they are likely to be viewed as acceptable. But if they come off as insensitive or in bad taste, they would receive negative feedback.

“So, while these marketing moves are smart, retail companies need to ensure they are not crossing the line and promoting negative behaviour. It is all about having the right balance between being funny and respectful.”

He also said companies must consider the societal impact of their marketing strategies, including assessing how the campaigns may influence cultural norms, perceptions and behaviour.

“When major companies use viral content for marketing, ethical considerations should be taken into account to ensure fairness, honesty and positive outcomes for everyone involved.

“When they incorporate viral content that resonates positively with the people, it can enhance consumer perception and strengthen the connection between the company and its customers,” he said.