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4 Tips on Using Controversy for Effective Marketing

Using Controversy for MarketingControversy is one word you would normally not want associated with your business. You want a harmonious relationship with customers and the last thing you want to do is lose them by taking a hard-line stance on an issue, right? But controversy can be your ally if you know what to do.

Use Controversy to Grab Attention and Trigger Response. In some cases, nothing grabs attention like a little bit of controversy (with emphasis on “a little bit”). It can actually be easier to get the attention of “haters” (we’re using the term loosely here) than of fans since they’re more reactive online. If you find yourself in the middle of a controversy, go ahead and make a stand. The upside to stirring up a hornet’s nest is that it’s bound to also attract supporters who will rally around you, as is the case for Apple. This could be just what’s needed to turn an also-ran into a front runner. But your strategy should be well played out, like a game of chess, because part of your goal is still to win over people.

Make Unwitting Promoters Out of Your Haters. Ironically, your haters could become your biggest promoters. Do something controversial and watch all the reaction generate leads. When Miley Cyrus did her twerking routine on television, it caused an avalanche of protests and spawned a huge discussion online. YouTube videos on the Miley Cyrus twerking garnered millions of views. Suddenly, everyone wanted to know who this girl was and what it was she did to deserve such attention. Twerking for Miley Cyrus (love it or hate it) was a serious boost to her popularity.

Know Where to Draw the Line. Controversy works wonders for selling a business, if you do it the right way. Know your target audience and calculate (or use your gut feel) how far you can go with them. 50% of your audience might directly object to your stand, but that doesn’t mean that the other half loves it. They may also hate it, and are simply keeping silent due to the sensitivity of the issue. When the man behind Abercrombie & Fitch said the brand wasn’t for plus size people and only catered to “cool” people, it got everybody talking, but it left a bad aftertaste. Abercrombie eventually apologized and reiterated its commitment against bullying, but the issue remains.

Keep It Real. Don’t use controversy just to attract attention to you or your product, or it could backfire and you could end up falling flat on your face. Be honest in a way that you and your brand will be appreciated. Controversy means using words and images to create legitimate, but not overly serious or sensitive, debate around your product. It is about saying what you feel even if it goes against popular opinion, being able to take the flak, and having the savvy to turn it into a marketing advantage.