Last week, we talked about the insidious practice known as ‘Clickbait’. While Clickbait is a loathsome gimmick used to draw simple people to even more simple ends—namely ad-revenue—there are other marketing practices which present an even more surreptitious threat.
Specifically, the topic today is the tactic known as ‘Outrage Marketing’.
For those unfamiliar, Outrage Marketing is the nihilistic attempt to create a large-scale controversy in order to get your branding out to a larger audience. This is a far deeper concept than Clickbait, and requires a good-deal more care as we explore the potential pros and cons therein.
In general, Outrage Marketing relies on making some innocuous statement or observation that has nothing to do with the product being sold. It presents a moving—or provocative—tableau, set to complementary music, and usually only the closing logo will identify exactly what is being sold.
The hope here is that the inevitable controversy created will continue to carry the name of the product, thus getting the product into the mouths and minds of far more people than a simple, direct, and informative ad could ever hope to.
For ease of discussion, let us risk taking part in the cycle by looking to a recent example. In order to minimize our role in these questionable practices, no links will be provided—advertising doesn’t come free here at Brad OH Inc.
Earlier this year, Gillette released an ad that challenged toxic masculinity, providing negative examples of male behaviour, then asking whether or not this was really ‘the best a man could get’.
In the interest of full personal disclosure, I loved the content of the ad. Toxic masculinity is a dangerous blight on our society, one which leads men into dangerous patterns of denying any emotion but anger, and which forces countless women to live in fear of the terrible results of such a hideous mindset.
It is a cultural norm which must be challenged at every turn—discussed, broken down, and replaced with a mindset that encourages a full and complete range of emotional intelligence for our boys.
The question that remains is—should an international razor company be the one leading this conversation?
It should be noted that this article is not an attack on any company in particular, but rather an exploration of corporate responsibility, and the limits thereof.
At the end of the day, Gillette is a corporation—which means that their sole purpose is to make money for their shareholders. That’s it—that’s the ingrained structure of any extant corporation, and to expect any other behaviour from them is naïve at best.
On their part, the ad was nothing more than an attempt to increase sales by forcing their name into public discourse—hardly less cynical than a corporation sponsoring a war, or schoolyard fight. They created a commotion, and plastered their logo above it.
Of course, they still sell ‘ladies razors’ at a significantly higher price-point than men’s, despite being identical save for the pink dye. This alone should hint at the fact that their commitment to positive gender relations only goes revenue deep.
It’s all about provocation meeting brand-recognition, and can be dumbed down to little more than corporate sponsored controversy. The fact that they were inarguably on the ‘right’ side of the debate is of little consequence—if the research indicated that the money was on the other side, you can be damn sure they’d flip.
Ultimately however, there is an insidious subtext here which may go unnoticed. It’s hard to say where this starts and ends, but the ability to sell using inflammatory content guaranteed to get a reaction is a smaller part of the general public’s constant demand for controversy and outrage. This ties back in to our last article on Clickbait.
On the whole, we seek entertainment and distraction over consideration and reflection. The result—or perhaps the parallel—to this constant demand for outrage, is its propensity to contribute to the further creation and distribution of the truly outrageous. After all, people will sell whatever the hottest ticket is, and when outrage sells even when utterly unattached to truth, we find ourselves in a precarious position where people no longer bother to question what’s true and what isn’t, but only parrot the most exciting stories that fit within their already established viewpoint.
But don’t take our word for it; take a look at this, you simply won’t believe it!
-Brad OH Inc.