When life gives you lemons, turn them into marketing gold: Country Time and its “Legal Ade” campaign

If you want to see a perfect example of how to use a stupid situation into a great marketing opportunity, look no further than what Country Time Lemonade is doing this summer.

Stories have emerged throughout the country of over-zealous officials slapping fines on little kids for the crime of running a lemonade stand without a business permit. The argument, somehow, is that trying to peddle the semi-warm watery grave of several gnats for a quarter a cup requires city or state sanctions. Although many have ridiculed these ham-handed approaches to justice, Country Time took it up a notch.

According to Ad Week, Country Time is fighting fire with fire by offering its “Legal Ade” services to the kids who find themselves at the wrong end of the long arm of the law. The program offers to pay the legal fees arising from their entrepreneurship. The company set aside about $60,000 for this program, which is peanuts for the Kraft-owned brand. The free media and attention has got to be worth exponentially more, with major news outlets running glowing stories about this campaign.

If you go back through the marketing chapter in the media writing book, you can see a few reasons why this works and how you can emulate this approach in your writing:

  • Simplicity: The message is an easy one for people to grasp. Kids are getting screwed and we’re standing up for them. This doesn’t go deep into the weeds on how or why or whatever about the law. Instead, it shows sad kids and how the company is giving them a big bat to play ball against the chuckleheads who have hit them with fines.
  • Tone: The whole idea of fining 4-year-olds for running a lemonade stand in their front yard is ridiculous. It smacks of being officious and arrogant, and has the feeling like these governmental agents have so little power in life they have to lord over children. The Country Time campaign plays right back at that vibe with a faux-serious tone: “OK, you think you have the law on your side? Check out our legal dream team that’s gonna make you wish you were never born!” It’s a fantastic approach to take that makes people laugh while still supporting the main assertion: Kids are getting screwed and we’re standing up for them.
  • Strategic relevance: The idea here is to make the creative aspects of the campaign relevant to the product itself. This is a lemonade company standing up for little kids who have lemonade stands. Had kids been getting shafted for running rummage sales or bake sales, this “Legal Ade” campaign wouldn’t work as well. However, this is like Briar Rabbit in the briar patch. The components go together perfectly.

This is a great example of how creativity and circumstance can really propel a brand into the public consciousness. If you see an opportunity to serve your clients when a situation like this emerges, go for it.

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