Tuesday, August 25, 2009

What's the CONTROVERSY now?


Branding Your Innerself…

'Could it be that nothing builds customer loyalty like a little controversy? It sure seems that way sometimes. For example, have you ever noticed that whenever The Future (us) TheFutureForward.net run articles with "Black Pride" or “ Party” or even “Pride Parties” in the headline, reader comments flow like water - from both the Twitteries and the wake-me-when-it's-over crowd.

This speaks to the power of polarization, putting something out there that immediately evokes strong feelings from the audience, one way or the other. Either you're "for it" or "against it." No in between. Polarization is a natural progression of knowing your customers and single-mindedly focusing on doing everything possible to appeal to them, getting into their heads and figuring how to best connect with them. And to heck with anybody else. If you're speaking relevantly to your audience, you really don't care about the rest of the universe. If you're selling haircare products, you don't care about the muscle heads in Miami. If you're selling a crop herbicide, you don't care about the barista in Berkeley. If you sell hunting rifles, you don't concern yourself with the pacifist in Pasadena. And if you're selling Speedos, well, I'd be surprised if you ran an ad in AARP Magazine.
And if that happens to rub some folks the wrong way, so what?
Martin Lindstom, in his book Buy-ology, which focuses on the science of neuro-marketing to explain why we purchase the products we do, concludes that the reason for the runaway success of the Calvin Klein jeans featuring a 14-year-old Brooke Shields isn't what we first thought. It wasn't the sex that sold. It was the controversy. Too many marketers, though, avoid polarization. Why stir up any controversy? Why would we put anything out there that someone might find a bit off-putting? Imagine the letters! Nothing came between Brooke and her Calvin's...

If you think about it, attempting to avoid polarization is really just another way of trying to be all things to all people. And as we learned on the first day of Marketing 101, that doesn't work. The thing is, if you put something out there that really resonates with your audience (and it's authentic), and someone who is not your target weighs in with their dissatisfaction, it'll probably incite your customers to come to your defense. The "controversy" surrounding your messaging gives your loyal customers permission to enter the conversation and stick up for you. Be wary, though. Creating controversy for controversy sake doesn't necessarily polarize people. It just pisses them off. Taste matters. And if your target market sees your "faux controversy" as a misguided attempt to get some cheap ink, you're a goner.
The most effective controversy is the kind that comes to you, rather than you looking for it. When Benetton caused a stir with its ads a decade ago showing AIDS patients, the company did it as a way of supporting that cause, not necessarily to shock or alienate the public at large. Yet, here we are discussing it years later. How many other fashion ads from that era can you say you remember?

In this age, when people are bombarded with literally thousands of options and thousands of selling messages every day, you need to engineer something into your products, its positioning or it communications to keep from fading into that bland gray morass.
After all, at a beauty pageant, no one remembers Miss Congeniality.

3 comments:

Ivy said...

That was excellent and timely. Most importantly, it was completely accurate. Folks need to determine their product, market and brand value - stick to it and work it like nothing else. Every demo will not buy your product in general and especially if you try to market to every demo - market to your true audience and they will spread the word for you!

Giovanni Centurione said...

Great story and nicely put. BTW, Luv the last photo! ;)

DeShawn said...

You hit it the nail right on the head. This is so true, because sometimes I can find myself sticking up for some of my favorite celebrities and have never met them. The minute something is fishy I find another,LOL. Let them come back and reinvent themselves and do something different, Im back in Love. Marketing is key to the audience.

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