Check out our work and its impact.
How a scandal turned into marketing gold using speed and creativity.
If you’ve logged onto the internet in the last four months, you’ve likely seen the phrase Scandoval come across a meme or headline. The scandal took the country by storm. Making its way into national news and creating an endless amount of content in the algorithm. But don’t worry. We’ll catch you up in case that phrase means nothing to you.
Bravo show Vanderpump Rules (VPR) followed the lives of a young, front-of-house staff at SUR Lounge, a restaurant owned by Lisa Vanderpump (Real Housewives of Beverly Hills). Everyone slept with everyone. Partners cheated with friends within the group. They partied hard, worked moderately hard and were genuinely a dysfunctional family. It was a group of people chasing dreams while serving fried goat cheese balls and Pumptinis. If you’ve ever worked in a restaurant, you’ll know this plot is highly relatable.
Fast forward 10 seasons later and the internet dubs the show’s latest scandal “Scandoval”. Tom Sandoval, a principal of the show and serial cheater, cheated on his partner Ariana Madix of over 9 years. To make matters worse, the affair was with their mutual best friend. We’re not going to dive into the scandal itself, but let’s just say, we’ve never been Team Sandy over here.
It’s an extremely validating time for someone who has watched Vanderpump Rules since its premiere in 2013. Cast members are gracing the cover of Glamour, the show has been the subject of numerous podcasts and the scandal itself was even a feature in The New York Times. Scandoval took the show from guilty pleasure to credible television worth watching, seemingly overnight.
So for the purpose of this blog, let’s put our marketing goggles on and dive into the well-timed, successful campaigns that have come out of this shocking heartbreak.
Since the news of Scandoval broke, we’ve seen the cast find different ways to monetize their heartbreak and loss of friendships. Everything from brand deals to podcast recordings, and merchandise for their own brand or business venture. With news like this, we as marketers know it’s not going to dominate headlines forever. So speed and timing are everything.
Beis Luggage is a prime example of this. The popular Instagram brand gifted Madix their entire product line after her former BFF was spotted leaving Ariana and Tom’s home putting a Beis bag in her Uber. The team at Beis saw the paparazzi photo and quickly took a stance in the scandal. This earned deeper brand loyalty, garnering headlines and creating new fans. This was a relatively low cost in exchange for earned coverage, new followers and increased brand awareness.
This is something we always have our eye on for our clients – whether it’s a trending topic or milestone within our influential network. For products, identifying who you want to know about your brand is key to this being successful. We encourage our CPG clients to participate in conversations in a way that’s meaningful to the brand and their community. Celebrating milestones of longtime followers or prospective new fans in the target audience. For a client that is a restaurant or hotel, it’s the ability to quickly incorporate timely specials or menu items into their brand. We’ve seen Vanderpump Rules watch parties, Queen Ariana cocktails and fried goat cheese ball menu specials.
Any brand can jump on a trending topic. But making the campaign resonate with current and new audiences is where the true professional skill comes in.
Take Duracell’s ad for example. Why does this product fit in the world of Scandoval? Let us explain. In the show, Tom uses a lame excuse that he’s not noticed in the relationship. He buys household items like batteries, pens and toilet paper without any thanks from his partner (gasp!). It was clear the Duracell team did their homework for the ad. From ditching the white nail polish (which Tom is notorious for wearing), comparing their product’s longevity to outlasting a relationship and panning to Ariana’s pantry where she’s stocked up on toilet paper and batteries, the VPR fan base knew exactly what that commercial meant and gobbled it up.
Duracell’s audience isn’t a direct correlation to Bravo fans. But everyone needs batteries in their life at some point, so the brand quickly capitalized on the product call-out. This ensured brand loyalty and relevancy (sorry Energizer, but this gal is now Duracell for life).
Not every situation is going to be an obvious fit like Duarcell’s. And that’s where creativity really shines a la UberEats. In their Uber One commercial, they dug up a VPR classic, remixing Scheana’s 2013 iconic song release, “Good as Gold” with her two best gal pals, Ariana and fellow castmate, Lala. The remix not only let their personalities shine but included Easter eggs within the lyrics that OG VPR fans would pick up on. Plus, the commercial created our summer bop of 2023, while subtly shading Madix’s ex.
While we try to avoid a crisis like Scandoval at all costs, sometimes there are opportunities to ease the pain with strategy, timing and budget. The key here is not every viral moment is going to resonate with your audience or brand. But having a deep, creative strategy around the ones that do, can then connect communities and increase brand awareness. And let’s be honest, making millions from a break-up is a vindication we all wish we could feel.
It really is all happening for us VPR stans.