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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You Know Nothing About the Moon

Under the Green Desk Lamp…

Green DesklampI got a strange phone call the other day. A friend of mine phoned to point out that he could see both the sun and the moon in the sky at the same time.

Certainly, there was nothing unusual about this other than his desire to call and tell me about it. But—he then pointed out—the moon had a shadow on it.

He didn’t need to say anything more; I saw the problem immediately.

All my young life, I’d grown up with the simple understanding that the dark spot or ‘shadow’ on the moon was caused by the Earth blocking out some of the light from the sun—essentially throwing its own shadow across the moon and hiding part of it from our sight.

I remembered—I was certain—elementary school teachers explaining this concept to us in great detail—likely using plasticine models, and perhaps a flashlight. It was, at any rate, a scientific ‘fact’ I had taken as sacrosanct my entire life.

In that one phone call, the idea was demolished entirely.

If I could see both the sun and the moon, that meant the sun had a direct line to the moon—unobstructed by the selfish machinations of the Earth. Therefore, the shadow across the surface of the moon could not possibly be caused by the Earth, as I had always understood.

Suddenly, everything I thought I had known about the lunar cycle was in shambles. This may seem like a small loss to anyone who gives even an average amount of consideration to the nature of celestial bodies, but I have a particular affinity for the sanctity of knowledge, and I found it quite troubling indeed.

Immediately, I set off to correct my false understandings and learn the truth about this now mysterious phenomenon. It took no time at all, and my understandings were soon corrected to incorporate this newfound information,. But I was nevertheless left with an unpleasant taste in my mouth.

Asking around over the following weeks, I soon discovered—to my small comfort—that I was far from alone in my naïve misunderstandings—in fact, I could scarcely find any other person who knew the truth about how the lunar cycles worked.

Do you?

No, probably not.

But you thought you did.

Most everyone I talked to thought the shadows on the moon were created by the Earth—just as I had so very recently. Simple fools!

The truth is, you see, that the dark spot on the moon is caused not by the Earth, but by the moon itself. Depending on the moon’s position relative to the sun, one half of it will always be fully lit (the side facing the sun), and one half will be dark (the side opposite the sun). The lunar cycle we witness is a product of the angle at which we view it. If the Earth is between the sun and moon, we will look back at it and see it fully illuminated. If the Earth is behind the sun and moon, we will see little of it, as we look towards its unlit side.

Finally, it the moon is somewhere between those extremes, we will see part of its illuminated side, and part of its dark side—as was the case on the day in question. (Source).

Once again, the function of the lunar cycle made sense. The world was right again.

…or was it?

No. Not quite. In the end, I was left questioning far more than just the moon. I’d been so confidant in this understanding. In fact, I would have likely gone so far as to say I ‘knew’ how it all worked. How then could I now remain confident in anything else I thought I knew, upon learning firsthand the fleeting transience of my knowledge?

It made me think of the nature of knowledge itself, and how much of what we claim to know is truly only suspected, or worse still, believed. It spoke to me of information bias and the ubiquity with which we cling to false truths.

Socrates once asked, “Can we ever truly ‘know’ anything?”

No, I suppose we cannot.

-Brad OH Inc.

A Fool Not Just in April

Under the Green Desk Lamp…

Green Desklamp

There’s a funny thing that happens right around this time of year. On the first of April each year, we observe a weird little day called ‘April Fools’’. This glorious day is a long-time favourite for pranksters and mischief-makers the world over—as jokes are played, tricks enacted, and terrible deceptions perpetrated by one friend upon another all in the righteous pursuit of naming another as a fool.

The possibilities are endless! Saran-wrap over the toilet seat? Check! Sardine Paste in the toothpaste tube? Check! Brutal lies about the health or general well-being of distant loved-ones? Yeah, even that might pass. But recently, one phenomenon has illustrated an especially troublesome habit of humanity—and shown us perhaps that the day of fools is a boon for the few wise people among us.

See, one irresistible opportunity for news pundits and bloggers alike is to post semi-believable yet entirely unreal stories for public consumption on April Fools’ Day. The writer will let the speculation and doubts run roughshod until noon, then coolly—and doubtless with an air of overplayed coyness—reveal the truth: namely, that it was all a ruse.

This all seems harmless enough. The thing is, it’s been going on for a significant enough stretch of time that anyone with half a clue and access to the internet for more than a year knows just what to expect, and rises each April 1st donning the armour of suspicion, and brandishing their sword of rational-inquiry. Each article they see is taken in with a discerning eye. Facts are weighed against probabilities, and anything doubtful is cross-referenced against other articles.

Dates are checked, names researched, local obituaries are pored over for accuracy, and for one day, all sources of information are taken in with a critical eye, hell-bent on sussing out the truth from the trash.

All things considered, it’s a pretty wonderful day!

But then something unfortunate happens. The sun rises on the second of April, the bathroom floors are disinfected, toothpaste tubes replaced, and loved ones are given a brief check-in call with a pre-arranged excuse to hang up after a few minutes small-talk. Then, everything returns to normal. People eat their breakfast, kiss their spouses and children, go to their jobs, and then sit slack-jawed and dumb-founded at the torrents of bullshit flashing across their screens in the name of ‘news’.

‘You won’t believe what…’

‘What happened next will leave you speechless…’

‘Local mom makes $900,000,000 in one hour, when you learn how you’ll…’

‘THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING!!!’

They sit with eyes glazed over as they work their fingers along their mouse, taking it all in, following the currents of their newsfeed like Job waiting on fairer winds. It’s all accepted, all welcome, and none of it is ever second-guessed.

It’s a sorry fact that when not actively warned by our calendars that the news just might not be as accurate as it’s purported to be, people forget the concept entirely. But rational thought is not a novelty to be toyed with once a year, only to be dusted off and returned in mint-condition to its little glass case marked ‘Open April 1st’. Rather, it is a tool to utilize daily, to ward off the perils of misinformation—deliberate or not—and exercise the full potential of our humanity. As rational creatures living in an often irrational world, the onus of critical consideration of news media is on us as consumers. It is a matter of education, of self-protection, and more importantly, of intellectual integrity.

So let us not forget, good people, that there may be but one day a year where we are free to name each other as fools, but that leaves 364 days each year where the names do not fly so readily, and we are left simply with an opportunity to prove the fact for ourselves.

-Brad OH Inc.