Outrage Marketing

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!

Click Here.

-Brad OH Inc.

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Facts that Only 12% of Readers Will Understand! You Won’t BeLieve #3!

Of course, a claim like that is absolutely ridiculous. It would be impossible to verify to any respectable degree, and is entirely worthless with or without such verification. Still…was it part of the reason you clicked the link today?

Honestly, did you want to prove you weren’t among that miserable 98% of idiots who will never understand what you do?

Did you even bother to check the math above, or did knowing more than 98% just sound better than knowing more than 88% of people?

Did you check that time?

I’ll admit, the entire block of text above has been a heinous waste of time, but read on…you won’t believe what’s next!

These are the sorts of headlines we see every day—whether trawling Facebook, or trying to make it through the coverage on your preferred ‘news’ site.

Clickbait is the simple understanding that people interact with things that engage them—that cause a reaction, rather than things that present an interesting idea, or a challenging but important topic. People as a mass don’t want the best, they want what’s catchy.

Spoiler alert: This works because people are—on the whole—dumb animals, who are simply reacting to stimuli in whatever way comes natural to them.

Do any of these seem familiar to you?

  • You won’t believe…
  • People can’t stop…
  • Find out what people in your neighbourhood are all talking about…
  • The secret they don’t want you to know…
  • They are trying to erase this one secret from the internet…
  • Only 82% will know this…

When you see wild claims like this, rest assured that the underlying promise is nothing more than vapid tripe for cheap clicks. Ultimately, it’s nothing more than a cynical attempt to increase page hits, and hence advertising revenue.

Nonetheless, many people spend the better part of their time online falling into these incessant traps, supporting websites which generate profit, but not content. Of course, since the model works, it continues to be reinforced, which makes such Clickbait ever more prevalent, and real content that much harder to find.

The secret behind this success is triggering a reaction from a title, and more often than not, that reaction is an urge to prove that you, the reader, are better than ‘those statistics’ the title refers to. You know better, you are better, you have something other people don’t, and dammit, you’ll prove it by following the instructions and typing an English word with two O’s!

If you see an article with 5M comments all disproving the grandiose claim of the article, it might be worth considering that you’ve been duped.

So, here’s a bit of advice, from us to you. The next time you read something online that gives you an urge to prove you’re especially smart or special—just save yourself the trouble.

You aren’t.

With our warmest regrets,

-Brad OH Inc.