Just Stop Oil is a London-based, environmental activist group best known for their climate-change protests and intrusive (although typically non-violent) disruptions of high-profile events as well as general interruptions to the daily lives of citizens all over the United Kingdom and recently throughout Europe as well.

Ironically enough, the group is exactly what both Democrats and Republicans think of when they hear the term “radical climate activist group”… An uncompromising, coalition of socialist democrats committed to disrupting the status quo and fucking with rich people’s favorite past times.

Founded in 2022, after Extinction Rebellion and Insulate Britain [1] ended their own scorched earth marketing tactics, with organizers from both groups at the helm, Just Stop Oil has had dozens of videos go viral on social media for antics such as throwing tomato soup at Vincent van Gogh’s Sunflowers [2], throwing orange-colored confetti and jigsaw pieces on to Wimbledon tennis courts, and gluing themselves to anything they could literally get their hand on.

Most famously, their “slow-march” campaigns throughout London and other major European cities — a “slow-march” being when groups of J.S.O. activists walk slowly while hold hands in the middle of busy streets and highways — cause traffic backups so long that in one particular case a woman caught behind one of these walks while in labor, actually had to give birth in her car as she was and unable to get to the hospital in time. Fortunately, there were no complications, and little baby Toyota Corolla Johnson is reported to be doing just fine.

To their credit Just Stop Oil has a very specific focus. It is asking, that the government “immediately halt all future licensing and consents for the exploration, development and production of fossil fuels in the UK.” This demand is in response to the October 2022 government announcement that it plans to license up to 100 new oil and gas projects by 2025. [1]

Just Stop Oil’s tactics have brought their message, for better or worse, to the forefront and it’s that better or worse part we’re going to talk about today. To do so, let’s look at three areas where these guerrilla marketing tactics seem to have had positive outcomes, three areas where the same tactics have had a negative impact on the Just Stop Oil brand and message, and determine if the group should keep a truckin’, so to speak, or consider a complete identity overhaul. Yes those metaphors were terrible and I apologize if they’ve caused you any turm-oil. Ok, now I’m done.

Three positives outcomes from a brand marketing perspective; how the Just Stop Oil tactics are bringing people over to their side like milkshakes bring all boys to the proverbial yard.

1. Attention and Awareness: Much like a Kardashian directing traffic, Just Stop Oil’s tactics are disruptive and high-profile. They involving blocking major roads and interrupting significant events which helps to attract substantial attention and keeps their cause in the public eye. For example, the group has drawn attention through provocative acts such as throwing soup at Van Gogh’s Sunflowers [3]. By making their protests visible and hard to ignore, they ensure that their message reaches a large audience. The hope here being essentially, “there is no such thing as bad publicity”.

2. Pressure on Government and Industry: The tactics used by Just Stop Oil are designed to place more pressure on government and industry to act on climate change and fossil fuel use than a viral photo of a turtle with a plastic straw in its nose. Despite the government passing new anti-protest legislation, the group remains committed to non-violent civil resistance until their demands are met [1]. This indicates their actions have had a measurable impact of, as they have forced legislative action and continue to exert pressure for further change.

3. Synergistic Effect within the Climate Movement: Just Stop Oil’s tactics have sparked discussions within the climate activism community, leading to a diversification of strategies among different groups. While some, like Extinction Rebellion (XR), have shifted towards more moderate approaches, others like Just Stop Oil continue with their disruptive actions. This creates a broader spectrum of activism, potentially appealing to different segments of society and keeping the climate issue on the agenda from multiple angles. The differing strategies can benefit from awareness raised by each other, creating a synergistic relationship within the overall climate movement [2]. It’s like in Avengers: Endgame when everyone that had been “blipped” out of existence in the last movie came back and joined Captain America to form one giant, bad guy fightin’ coalition, except here instead of fighting Thanos and his The Black Order army Just Stop Oil and Friends are fighting every first world government and major corporation on the planet. Yeah, it’s kind like that. On the PRO side for J.S.O., Captain did win. SO there’s that.

Overall, if we’re looking for positives in this campaign and its guerrilla marketing tactics, Just Stop Oil, it can be argued, has done a fantastic job of bringing global attention and awareness to the group and its message. Although some of their target audience might want to run group members over with their cars, at least brand recognition seems to be high. Think love for Star Wars movies but simultaneous, unadulterated hatred for Jar Jar Binx.

On the flip side, let’s talk about the three most noted negative impacts of the J.S.O. campaigns.

1. Alienation of Public Support: Like finding out she’s super into astrology, Just Stop Oil’s radical tactics seem to be alienating the public rather than gaining their support. According to a YouGov poll, a majority of respondents (52%) sympathized with motorists affected by the group’s protests, while only 8% supported the protestors themselves. The radical tactics employed by the group seem to have led to confusion or lack of interest about their objectives, which undermines the effectiveness of their message [5].

2. Legal Consequences and Backlash: The group’s disruptive actions, such as blocking major roads and interrupting sports events, have — surprisingly — led to legal penalties including imprisonment and fines. Such consequences not only affect the activists involved but could potentially discourage potential supporters due to the risks associated with the group’s tactics. The government has even passed new anti-protest legislation specifically to address the disruption caused by these protests [6].

3. Negative Media Perception: Extreme marketing, branding, and traffic fuckwittery tactics can — again, surprisingly — lead to negative reactions from the mainstream media and the general public. This negative perception can result in an overall misunderstanding or dismissal of the group’s objectives. While their goals of halting fossil fuel exploration and promoting renewable energy are recognized as valid, their controversial tactics seem to be overshadowing the message they’re trying to convey [5]. It’s like if you want to help someone out and tell them that there’s a mosquito on their nose by punching them in the face. Intentions were great, method of communication not so much.

In conclusion, I think this all comes down to one’s definition of makes a marketing or branding campaign successful. If the success of either is measured by a seemingly viral and unstoppable spread of the group’s reputation and message, then it would appear Just Stop Oil’s effort may one of the most effective campaign strategies in marketing history. Even if the target demo is chasing said brand with torches and pitchforks. The other hand, if the success of a marketing campaign is measured by passive receptebility and an overall positive association with the brand, then it would seem that lead based paints have a better chance of a comeback, than the Just Stop Oil folks have of winning public favor.

If you enjoyed this piece or if you’d like to chat about your own company’s marketing and branding efforts, please don’t hesitate to reach out at gntbranding.com or say [email protected].

Thank you


[1] https://www.bbc.com/news/entertainment-arts-63254878

[2] https://edition.cnn.com/2023/01/07/europe/extinction-rebellion-quits-disruptive-protests-climate-intl/index.html

[3] https://www.oxfordstudent.com/2023/06/12/just-stop-oil-the-debate/

[4] https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2023/jan/02/insulate-britain-and-just-stop-oil-vow-to-continue-disruptive-action

[5] https://impakter.com/climate-activism-are-radical-tactics-damaging-the-environmental-cause/

[6] https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-63543307