Bundaberg Bear getting the chop? Is that a media stunt I smell?

Now I’d hate to accuse as responsible an alcohol distributor as Diageo as being a big fat media-mainpulating liar.

So I won’t.

But instead, let me draw your attention to a remarkable coincidence.  

Bundaberg Rum BearA Facebook group popped up yesterday called: “Save The Bundaberg Rum Bear.”

It’s got a nicely created logo showing the old Bundaberg logo and the new one, along with the bear pleading for his life with a noose swinging by his neck.

Now the public like the bear. Its value was even discussed on The Gruen Transfer a few episodes back. So of course you could anticipate a media shitstorm if ever the bear really did get the chop.

According to the Save the Bundaberg Beargroup blurb: “Bundaberg Rum have decided to DELETE the bear from it’s brand and revert to a more ‘traditional logo’. Support the poor old Bundaberg Polar bear and LIKE this page! :)))”

It then adds:

“DISCLAIMER: This page is not part of a marketing or advertising campaign and it is not affiliated with Bundaberg Rum in any way … We just like the bear :)”

Bundaberg_facebook_pageThese people who “just like the bear” seem to move very fast. But they must be non-corporate because they use smiley faces.

The story that the bear might get the bullet appeared yesterday afternoon in B&T Today. In what appears to be based on a press release, B&T reported: “Diageo has announced the rebrand of its Bundaberg Rum, which has seen the removal of its famous Bundy Bear icon from the logo in favour of a design that reflects the history and craftsmanship of the brand.”

The group appears to have been set up about an hour and a half later.

So whoever set it up clearly reads the media trade press – and moves fast. But remember: “This page is not part of a marketing or advertising campaign and it is not affiliated with Bundaberg Rum in any way.” We have to take that on face value of course, because everyone knows that brands lying to punters on social media is a Very Bad Thing.

Here’s another coincidence. Via Facebook, I was invited to “like” the group this morning. The person who invited me works at digital agency Amnesia Razorfish.

Guess who’s on Amnesia’s client list on their website? Diageo, owner of Bundaberg Rum.

Bundaberg_facebook_disclaimerBut remember: “This page is not part of a marketing or advertising campaign and it is not affiliated with Bundaberg Rum in any way.” And brands – and their agencies – don’t lie to consumers on Facebook.

So that invite must have been a coincidence.

Here’s another coincidence – another poster on the Bundaberg page is Jennie Bewes. I’m not Facebook friends with her, but LinkedIn tells me Jennie Bewes is Amnesia’s director of social media and new business. I can also see that several Amnesia staffers were among the first to sign up to the page.

Now I can only think of a couple of possibilities.

A cynic would suggest that in fact, despite the promise, this IS in fact  a marketing or advertising campaign. And the page IS affiliated to Bundaberg Rum. A cynic might further suggest that the next step might be to create some sort of media storm over the axing of the Bundaberg bear. A cynic would then suggest that the next step of the PR campaign might be to publicly reverse the decision. In the end it got Vegemite a lot of attention.

I’m not the only one to suggest that. A poster on the facebook page postulates:

“Wow..this looks like a really poor campaign to re ignite a already very loved brand and get a social aspectto what they do. As if you woud change the bear. FAIL.”

We have of course been here before. Remember last year’s fun when Naked Communications tried to hoax the media over Heidi’s social media campaign to find the man in the Witchery jacket? Fair to say, the media doesn’t like being hoaxed amd things did not end well.

But perhaps there’s another explanation. Perhaps Amnesia – part of the Public Groupe – has gone rogue on its client.

It seems a little unlikely though. Another agency in the Publicis group is Leo Burnett, who do the Bundy ads. They recently created this bear-heavy gem for Bundaberg:

Perhaps Amnesia is doing it without Diageo’s permission. In which case running a public campaign against your client’s rebranding would seem a tad unusual.

So I asked the person who invited me to join. His version of events is that the presence of Diageo’s logo on the agency home page is a mistake and that the company is not a current client.

He insists that after staff saw the B&T story they spontaneously decided to create the group and they have created it for fun simply because they like the bear.

He can’t vouch for the client though, and whether the threat to remove the bear is as it seems.

The person who issued yesterday’s press release for Diageo is on voicemail. I’ll let you know if I hear from her though.

Update: Diageo issued the following statement in answer to my questions:

“Bundy R. Bear is a much loved icon who has represented Bundaberg rum for almost 50 years, and will continue to feature in future brand advertising. Claims that he has been axed are incorrect and unsubstantiated. Bundaberg Rum is proud to reveal a new look for the brand, which incorporates a new trademark logo, as well as updated packaging across its extensive product range. The new trademark logo features the faces of Bundaberg rum’s founding fathers Frederic Buss, A.P Barton, and F.L Nott who together rescued the now famous Bundaberg Distillery from liquidation in 1894. Bundy R. Bear will still feature on all product packaging.

“Bundaberg rum did not create or commission the “Save the Bundaberg rum bear” facebook page.”

The statement did not answer Mumbrella’s question on whether Amnesia works for Diageo.

Update to the update: Diageo tells me that Amnesia is not their agency and has not been for more than 12 months.

Tim Burrowes


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