How Brands Stand out Without Using Controversy

In the age of Instagram and Youtube where consumers are constantly bombarded by all kinds of content, it is incredibly difficult for brands to stand out. In the race for attention, it seems intuitive for brands to rely on controversial content — conventional wisdom tells us that if something is controversial, it will generate interest and be talked-about, which translates to higher brand awareness. But with so many brands trying to play the controversy card, the effectiveness of this strategy is quickly fading.

While sticking to conservative content alone may not be enough to catapult your brand into social media virulence, successful publicity efforts that run moderate content also focus on other aspects in creative ways.

Read on to find out how 3 brands recently pulled it off:

1. Jollibee — Consider a different demographic.

Kwentong Jollibee

This year on Valentine’s day, Jollibee released a trio of commercials dubbed “Kwentong Jollibee”, based on real stories.

The first video “Vow” tells of a man’s unconditional love for a woman that goes unreciprocated, as he promises his eternal love even as she joins hand with her future husband at the altar; “Crush” is a heartening story of a romance that sowed its seeds in school that eventually grew into marriage; “Date” is a heartbreaking story of how a father, who recently passed away due to a critical illness, prepared Valentine’s day dinner for his wife (at Jollibee) with the help their son.

All three videos went viral almost immediately after each was released. 7 hours after Vow, the first video of the ad series was uploaded onto Jollibee’s official Facebook page, it garnered over 3 million views. At the time of writing, the figure stands at 14 million views. It also became the top Twitter trend nationwide in the Philippines at one point.

The publicity generated from this Kwentong series was so widespread that not only did local news sites like CNNPilippines report on it, millions of foreigners from all over the world viewed them too. It even took on new life as the subject of many “reaction videos” by famous Youtubers like Josh Dove, whose reaction video amassed over 776,000 views.

Kwentong Jollibee even began to circulate in Chinese social media. (Translation: This series of commercials produced in the Philippines are on par with Thailand’s; its plot and tear-jerking moments make it so suitable for adaptation into a soap drama!)

Jollibee’s Kwentong series demonstrated there is more to creating viral content than purely using controversy. While their first video Vow could be considered mildly controversial as a handful criticised it for reinforcing the toxic nice guys syndrome, the overwhelming majority found it a bittersweet tribute to the perhaps universal experience of being “friend zoned” by the one you loved (or love). By taking the unconventional route of focusing on singles on a day which celebrates romantic union, it successfully relates to a huge demographic that brands usually neglect, no less on Valentine’s day.

Screenshot of Jollibee’s Facebook post on Vow, more like wow. #KwentongJollibeeValentineSeries

2. The Straits Times’ — Cheeky & innocuous humour done right.

Witty Weatherman

Even The Republic of Singapore Air Force has joined in on the action!

Sometime early this year, those of us on Twitter would have seen Witty Weatherman’s updates making the rounds on our feeds. Many of Witty Weatherman’s updates are retweeted by the thousands, which is a far cry from the engagement level of those from the pre-WittyWeatherman era. As Mothership puts it best:

“a lone hilarious voice has seemingly come out of the publishing wild to give ST some much-needed levity.”

Never Forget: How boring weather updates from the Straits Times used to be before the “intern” came onboard.

By now Witty Weatherman’s updates have become such a sensation among Singaporeans that this mysterious figure has been featured on sites like Mashable and was even hailed as a “genius.” Many Singaporeans simply cannot believe that the Straits Times is capable of such humour, prompting much speculation that Witty Weatherman “is an intern.” All this speculation culminated in an interview with the Straits Times conducted by Marketing which revealed that Witty Weatherman is the result of a collaborative effort within the newspaper’s online department.

Singaporeans tweet their support for the Straits Times weather “intern”.


The Witty Weatherman’s updates may not be a deliberate marketing campaign per se, but it gave the Straits Times a potent boost in cultural relevance among Singaporean youths. It is an example of how humour, when applied appropriately, can lead to dazzling publicity success. And it didn’t even require any budget! As the Witty Weatherman shared in the Marketing interview, “we work in news, some things are beyond quips and jokes.” But where it is possible, the updates injected harmless humour into the stressful lives of Singaporeans.

Succinctly sums up our thoughts.

3. FCB Seoul — Be sensitive to emerging trends in your target audience.

Ritz Crackers’ ASMR Video

To highlight the crispiness of Ritz Crackers, FCB Seoul decided to leverage on ASMR (Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response), which is an experience characterised by a pleasurable tingling sensation on the skin. At the time of writing, the video hit more than 6 million views.

“Instead of simply mentioning ‘crispiness’ in the ad, we wanted to allow people to experience it. With the use of ASMR and sounds from the product, the film stays true to the essence of cracker, while standing out amongst noisy and loud snack ads in Korea today” says FCB Seoul’s executive creative director Taejay Lee.

Besides the audio aspect, using ASMR in an ad to be run in Korea resonates culturally with Koreans as there is an active and growing Korean ASMR community on YouTube, which adds to the advertisement’s effectiveness. By capitalising on the rising popularity of ASMR and investing in high-quality visuals to complement the sounds, FCB Seoul created an ad that hits just the right level of intimacy without coming across as creepy. On top of that, the ad allowed Ritz to stand out from its competition and draw attention to its new product offering.


Now that you have learned how these 3 brands made it work, it is time to start with the first step of applying these content strategies. Many articles on content creation tell you to “relate to your target audience” without specifying how. With Bolt, we connect you with the best content creators to deliver targeted content that will distinguish your brand from your competition.

Find out more about how we can help you with your content marketing efforts here.

Content Marketing
Content Strategy
Social Media Marketing
Digital Marketing