Tim Ray is not one to shy away from pushing boundaries.
The founder of the subscription meat-delivery service Carnivore Club used edgy marketing to earn social media exposure when he launched the company in 2013.
Its first effort, "Man vs. Vegan," featured a yoga clothing-clad woman proudly telling her friends how her boyfriend's new vegan diet was producing uncharted levels of virility. Meanwhile, in the other room, the boyfriend cited artisan-produced meats from Carnivore Club as the root cause.
Mr. Ray then enlisted Toronto advertising firm Bensimon Byrne to help produce another video that suggested a subscription to Carnivore Club could make up for any kind of marital mistake. In the spot, a man comes home to find his wife in bed with somebody else. But with a box of meat in hand, he remains unperturbed as he notices a sex slave in the corner and another lover jumping out of the wardrobe.
The problem was that the videos didn't resonate with everybody. Customers in Britain, one of the four markets in which Carnivore Club operates, found the first video sexist, and it was subsequently removed from the website.
Not that it hurt business much. Mr. Ray estimates that Carnivore Club has 1,500 regular subscribers – three times the number from a year ago, when the company was profiled in the Globe and Mail's Small Business Challenge feature. Each subscriber pays $50 a month to receive a box of cured, artisanal meats.
Mr. Ray and his staff of six full-timers decided to change tack in the run-up to this festive season. They hired Toronto's Leo Burnett agency to make what Mr. Ray calls "our first non-offensive video."
The 90-second spot on the company's website features a mustachioed gentleman sitting behind a desk in ever-changing outfits, from Santa Claus to lingerie-wearer to karate instructor, as he espouses why a box of meat makes the perfect gift.
"With this video the idea was to create something that was very shareable and really focused on the holidays, and with zero ability to have anyone interpret it the wrong way," Mr. Ray says.
While the company tries to find a balance between funny and practical in its marketing, Mr. Ray says customers are part of the club for a reason, so he doesn't worry much about what others are saying.
"Whatever PETA or the vegan sector are saying, we really don't pay too much attention to them. We're just focused on giving a really quality club for our targeted customers."
As an accomplished entrepreneur – he sold his first business, foodscrooge.com, after appearing on the CBC's Dragons' Den – Mr. Ray is looking to build a portfolio of cool consumer brands that he can have fun with. He recently acquired Broquet, a gift-giving platform offering items for men, such as barbecue utensils or Moscow Mule cocktail sets.
But don't expect Mr. Ray to tone down his humour any time soon.
"That's been the only reason we've gotten to where we are," he says. "As soon as we start getting too vanilla and worrying about offending people, that's when we stop being relevant, right?"