The old saying “there’s no such thing as bad publicity” still holds true. In this article, I’ll dive deep into a controversial marketing case study & breakdown. Asking the question how to execute a controversial marketing campaign involves 4 main steps.
Controversial marketing also “falsely” implies that controversy is a negative term. The best topics in the world center around differences of opinion. In addition to starting conversations, it brings an emotional element to a conversation. The creativity is being able to evoke that emotion in a marketing campaign. Taking that a step further, it’s all about execution.
Does Controversial Marketing Work?
Take a look at current events and you’ll see where the hot topics are. Layer that current event with any sort of public figure, inject a brand that brings it all together, and what you have is a controversial marketing campaign. Thing is, that’s just the creativity part. Strategy & being able to execute on the pr side is as crucial.
How to Execute a Controversial PR Campaign
Once you have the creative element in place, it’s a matter of picking a medium to deliver. Believe it or not, it comes down to the skill set of the marketer. Some will tell you that social media is how you seed the controversy. Personally, your success rate here is low. It can still happen, and when it does, it’s incredible. There are just other avenues where the success rate is higher.
I’m a huge fan of using traditional media to plant the seed. Billboards & print – yes actual traditional billboards (not digital) and magazine print articles (those things “no one read”), do outstanding. It plays well out well on TV , news, and social.
The amplification process is where your controversial marketing campaign can thrive or die. Without question, you need a proper PR marketing firm in charge of that amplification (and most times, the strategy). Using the layers of strategy & PR execution, the return on ad spend for that buzz is INSANE.
What are Some Controversial Marketing Tips?
Without question, you can dip the company ink back into the controversial marketing well. You are still using the layering approach.
- Current events +
- Public figure +
- Brand injection+
- Proper PR execution
Controversial Marketing – Case Study
For instance, we were tasked for a controversial marketing campaign for a risque dating site. 3 weeks before Trump was elected (remember at that time, the odds were not in Trump’s favor of winning), this billboard was put up in Austin Texas.
A – Current News: Trump ran on immigration. Furthermore, it was (and still is) a very hot topic in the United States.
B – Public Figure: Interestingly enough, there is no public figure here. The topic of immigration before the election automatically correlated to Trump, all while never using him in the billboard. Using the state of Texas as the billboard location was huge given the hot button topic in the state.
C – Brand Inclusion – Minor portion of the ad element.
D – PR Execution: This is the magic sauce. Reaching out to one local (not even national) reporter started this roll up. Started in Austin, TX and immediately shot up the national chain. Speaking of chains, the chain reaction was rather rapid. Front page of Breitbart, Huffington Post, Politico, included in the Daily Beast. Which caused radio to comment on it, which cause TV news to report on it. All along the way, having the proper PR execution to navigate the trenches.
You can of course weigh the pros & cons of controversial marketing, as many might feel this isn’t path for your brand. Perhaps for some truly mainstream brands it is not. But let’s not forget, when brands like Nike can get away with it, you can thrive with it as well!