How Protein World Turned Customer Base Into Fan Base

On Thursday the 31st of April 2015, the UK Advertising Standards Authority banned Protein World’s protein powder campaign, Are You Beach Body Ready. So finally, the feminists won! Or did they? According to Business Insider, the campaign increased their sales by 1.000.000 dollars in the first week. Here’s how.

Protein World launched their campaign on billboards in the London Underground at the end of March, portraying a beautiful, extremely fit (and photoshopped) model. Almost immediately their question, Are You Beach Body Ready?,  caused a shitstorm from feminists all over Britain and beyond. They were angry because they felt the posters were shaming the average female body.

The campaign went viral on social media, with hashtags like #EachBodysReady and #PerfectlyImperfect. Countless women (and men) were ranting against Protein World, sabotaging the posters and some even posting revealing pictures of themselves in bikinis, as a reaction against the company’s apparent objectification of women.

At first glance, a reaction like that might look like a huge PR fail. But let’s take a moment to consider who Protein World is targeting. Is it the feminists and the fitness-indifferent? Absolutely not. Actually, Protein World hit their target audience spot-on, by showing real integrity, not bowing down to critique. With hashtags like #Winning, #GetAGrip and #GrowUp, the company delivered tailored verbal slaps to their critics, instead of making excuses:

Protein World’s snappy comebacks to the angry mob have effectively enhanced their ballsy image. They didn’t upset their customers. On the contrary, standing up to their values, however controversial they might be, has only inspired their target group to do the same, creating a counter-reaction and supporting the company in the Twitter battle:

Next stop: the World
So far, not even the ban against the campaign has stopped the company’s marketing strategy. In June they launched a skyscraper tall version of the Beach Body Babe on nothing less than Times Square in New York. Simultaneously, they asked the New Yorkers, Are You Beach Body Ready?, at nearly every Subway entrance. Protein World certainly hasn’t been timid by the protestors.

Protein World thought out their campaign cleverly. The people who were offended would never buy the product anyway. But they played the perhaps most vital role in the entire campaign by causing the hype and luring the loyalists into an equally vocal defense of the brand message.

Pay a visit to Protein World’s Twitter profile today, and you’ll have to do some serious digging to find any negative remarks.

More often than not, companies want to please everyone. But let’s be honest – unless your product is oxygen, that strategy is doomed to fail. Protein World might have upset the politically correct, but with the same stroke they turned their costumer base into fan base.

The Numbers:
Protein World spent £250,000 on the campaign. According to the company itself, during the first four days of twit-storm they got:

  • a 5,000-20,000 follower-jump on their Facebook, Instagram and Twitter profiles.
  • 20,000 new customers and
  • a £1,000,000 revenue.

Today, Protein World has made it to a whopping 70,000 followers and close to 18,000 mentions on Twitter – and counting. Although sales peaked several weeks ago and are now back to a more normal level, the increased crowd of followers remains a valuable resource for Protein World’s future marketing of their products.