Controversy In Advertising

When brand courts controversy, they are inevitably playing for fire. But fire is sometimes the exact spice you need to reignite a dying brand. Though there are many reasons for this, the most straight-forward one is cost. Controversial publicity stunts are in many cases is the cheapest form of advertising.

When courting controversy, it is very important to take a step back and actually ask whether controversy will bring anything to your brand. The most important consideration for is your target audience. Some audiences are drawn to racy advertising. For example, the young male demographic 18–30. Edgy humour that is bold is unflinching resonates with them. Young mothers, on the other hand, are not unlikely to be receptive to controversy because the products they typically buy are anything but racey.

Making a judgement on whether your brand has an audience that will be receptive to controversy is incredibly important. A classic example of a brand that did not learn from this mistake in the past was Benetton. Benetton had a friendly, positive image that was a clear endorsement of a global world. However, the shock tactics use in their marketing displayed a certain desperation and preachiness that was far from attractive. The divergence from their original idea was so great that the brand lost its way, resulting in declining sales.

As a general rule, a brand’s values must mimic their audience. If you are using controversial, provocative advertising to get your message out there makes sure your audience will be receptive to it.

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