It used to be ‘any publicity is good publicity’.
Today’s version? This headline.
Cringe. We’ve all felt it, grimacing our way through embarrassing and out-of-touch content.
But if people are cringing about you, they’re most certainly thinking about you. Is this the attention you’d like?
On the Internet, where Gen Zs take up much of the space, have a spending power of $US143 billion, and account for 40% of global consumers – they are the keepers of the cringe gates.
(To keep you on your toes, there’s also ‘good cringe’. It’s when something is so bad that it’s funny and unforgettable. This is difficult to nail but if that’s your intention, proceed with caution. Here, we’re talking about bad cringe.)
Gen Zs can sense when brands are trying to ‘kick it with the kids’. Cringe.
They know when companies have spent too much time and money on an advertising campaign that capitalises on a meme… that’s outdated. Cringe.
They can see past greenwashing and can’t stand injustice. Cringe.
An 18-year-old male from Western Australia told us that a Budget Direct campaign was cringe as it “clearly doesn’t understand teenagers”.
“They tried to make a trend where TikTokers go around their city and find hidden “monsters” that are attacking the city,” they said.
“This has been a massive flop in my opinion, as all the advertising seems very cringe and forceful, with influencers calling on people to “fight monsters” and save the cities of Australia.”
“Seeing the adverts pushes me away from using Budget Direct, even though I’m unsure of what product they even offer, which is another major flop of their campaign (inability to showcase what their product does).”
Cringe is also what happens when they’re bombarded with ads.
“The best way to attract customers is not through repetition,” an 18-year-old female from NSW said.
“Seeing an ad on social media over and over again is highly irritating and can cause the opposite effect than what was desired.”
“An example is Colgate’s ads on TikTok. I cringe every time I see their toothpaste in store because they are annoying.”
Good-bad publicity: a myth
The thing is, today’s marketing experts argue that ‘any publicity is good publicity’ is a myth, especially in this era.
For B&T Magazine, Marnie Vinall wrote that while there may have been some truth to that phrase at a time when consumer choices were limited, today they can easily unfollow and find great alternative options.
“With the rise and spread of information across the web, when brands take a PR hit like [Nars’ animal cruelty featured on BBC], they don’t just get increased mentions online and added brand awareness, they lose their customer base,” Marnie said.
Consumers – Gen Zs especially – are also more socially aware and will switch brands that are in line with their personal values.
“Nowadays, brands aren’t just competing with the consumer on price point and product, but also the brand and product’s social, environmental or political impacts.”
Think about it. It takes proper time and resources to turn cringe around and rebuild genuine trust. And with today’s fast-moving society, during this time they’re likely to already move onto something else.
In short, try to avoid the cringe!