How and When to Use Controversy in Your Marketing

Donald Trump is everywhere at the moment, and I mean everywhere.

His recent political moves have shocked a lot of people, but he’s not the only questionable topic out there. With plenty of subjects having the potential to go viral and get your company noticed, now would be a great time to read this article on how to handle controversial content. 

While a lot of brands avoid controversy where they can, there’s something to be said for those who grab political/world/financial issues by the balls and write about them with gusto. 

Who could forget the Kony campaign of 2012? A hard-hitting video designed to raise awareness of a man who managed to evade the International Criminal Court for more than  20 years, it went viral almost straight away. I remember watching it and donating money to their cause immediately. It caused controversy, but it worked.

Controversial content triggers an emotional response in the reader, and that’s Buffer’s (and plenty of other market leaders’) top tip for content strategy and digital marketing success, right? Click, read, feel, share. 

Sounds easy, but it’s hard to do well. 

Publishing controversy for the hell of it isn’t going to go down well with your audience, particularly if the topic isn’t within your usual niche. You should only ever write about a subject if it can positively relate back to your business or client. 

Companies should look for the “sweet spot,” where an image or issue generates enough heat to elicit interest but stops short of making people uncomfortable. 

 Jonah Berger

Studies have shown that low-level controversy encourages discussion among audiences, but anything above a moderate level of controversy decreases the possibility of engagement.

So, when should you use controversial content? 

  1. You’re boring
    A dip in numbers and a lull in web traffic is an indication that your content has become predictable, your strategy is stale, and you need to switch it up. Boost your engagement with a topic or opinion piece nobody expects. 
  2. You’re slow
    If you’re always publishing news and posts the day after things happen, you’re not going to harness the amount of web traffic you could be. Put your opinion out there as soon as you can and make the most of its viral potential. 

While being too different from your usual brand image can have a detrimental effect, the majority of the time it’s a golden opportunity to inject some personality into your brand. Another plus, you could end up going viral. Flex your blogger muscles, showcase your new material, and maximise your exposure! 

What controversial articles have you posted recently? We’d love to see them! Leave a link below and we’ll check them out.


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