Understanding Confrontational and Controversial Marketing

Controversial and confrontational marketing are time tested methods for bringing traffic, attention and links to your company, product or website, however there’s more to it than just picking a fight.

The key to being successful with this approach is really having a firm understanding of your market, audience or ideal customer. Find a topic or subject that speaks directly to them. You want to find issue they are concerned about, things they are thinking about, or problems that they need solved. You then want to alienate people aren’t part of that market and probably aren’t ever going to become your customer. Want an example here’s a Clearasil commercial where a young girl deals with the embarrassment of having her mom show her baby pictures to her boyfriend

The commercial speaks to teens about coming to grips with their own individuality, sexuality, and growing into a confident adult. The commercial obviously has upset a certain sector of conservative parents.

Another example comes from Carl Jr’s. While McDonalds and Burger King go after the “family” market, Carl Jr’s goes after the single male 18-35. They produced the infamous Paris Hilton Car wash commercial last year, and followed it up with Flat Buns commercial featuring a teacher bumping, grinding and gyrating in front of her class

The ad has conservative parents and teachers worked into a tizzy.

Another example is the Dove Soap pro aging campaign, featuring mature non models in unretouched photos

The company is also trying to embrace women who don’t fit the stereotypical image of beauty or glamour and speak directly too them

Ok enough theory I’ve shown you some funny commercial and nice pictures how does this help you as an internet marketer, is it for you, and how do you put a plan into action?

Identify Your Market – first and foremost you really need to have a really good idea of who your target market and ideal consumer is. Understand what they want, or need, or desire (see nobody wants to be fat or poor). Speak to them and not at them. Be honest, truthful, and direct, don’t use the same old marketing hyperbole they’ve been getting from everyone else for years.

You Need a Villain – For everyone who is in your ideal customer there are people who aren’t, and understand you are going to piss them off to a certain degree. What are they going to do when they get pissed off, can you take the heat and weather the storm? For example will painting someone as a link communist help or hinder you in the long run? If you’re really good or clever you’ll use you’re villain guerilla warfare style to help spread your message.

Fan the Fire – There’s a fine line between astroturfing and a grass roots movement, and sometimes it’s hard to know where that line is (see Sony viral marketing ploy angers consumers). Drop as many hints as you possibly can in the “right places” in front of the right people. Make it really easy for them to spread your message. For example instead of trying to hoard all the link love for yourself, let people embed your youtube video and spread it for you.

Still too much theory for you, you want some real life examples in action, ok here you go …

Rand Fishkin – see I Used to Respect Robert Scoble’s Opinion
ShoeMoney – see DMOZ Extortion
Jason Calacanis – see SEO is Bullshit
Rae Hoffman – see Merchant Circle
Kim Krause – see I Don’t Digg Being Dugg
Tamar Weinberg – an Open Letter to Kevin Rose

There are lots and lots more out there. To what extent each of these was a planned event where all of the pieces were set in motion according to a master plan, I don’t know. I’m sure some were, and some just kind of happened overnight when someone felt really passionate about a particular issue. However unless you’ve actually dissected some of these, you really won’t have an idea how they work, and how to make them work for you. My advice smart small, don’t step up to the plate looking to hit the bottom of the 9th grand slam homerun your first time at bat. Secondly pay attention, things have the potential to go terribly wrong, know when to pull the plug and apologize.

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