Under the Influence

Why some companies negatively advertise their own products

From Volkswagen to Nestea, bold brands approach advertising with a little self-deprecating humour.

From Volkswagen to Nestea, many brands approach advertising with a little self-deprecating humour.

There is a rich history of negative advertising strategy. The Volkswagen advertising of the 1960s was firmly rooted in the negative.

The famous Volkswagen ads of the '60s. (medium.com)

The ads said the VW Beetle was ugly. They said it was slow and too small. They said it was uncomfortable in the backseat.

There was an honesty about the advertising. But more than that, it was endearing. No other car marketer had ever taken pot-shots at its own vehicle. But by doing that, Volkswagen became the most beloved car in history.

Avis celebrated the fact it was number two in the car rental business. Being number two was seen as a negative in marketing terms. Nobody ever boasted about being second-best. But Avis turned that negative into a positive by saying because they were number two, they tried harder than number one.

It was powerful marketing. That campaign made Avis profitable for the first time in a decade.

There is a funny commercial airing right now for Nestea here in Canada. It shows a shy teenager trying to work up the nerve to talk to a girl at school. So he drinks some Nestea for courage, only to realize that Nestea doesn't give you courage. It's just a drink:

For more stories about advertising, click or tap the "Listen" tab above to hear the full Under the Influence episode. You can also find us on the CBC Radio app or subscribe to our Podcast.

Under the Influence is recorded in the Terstream Mobile Recording studio, a 1969 Airstream trailer that's been restored and transformed into a studio on wheels. So host Terry O'Reilly can record the show wherever he goes.

Follow the journey on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and search the hashtag: #Terstream.

The Terstream Mobile Recording Studio. (Image Credit: Sidney O'Reilly)