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Make them hate you! Why polemic marketing 'fails', win.

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my SXSW 2014 talk on bravery in marketing and the line between dividing your audience through debate and disgust.

my SXSW 2014 talk on bravery in marketing and the line between dividing your audience through debate and disgust.

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  • Can't help but think of this example http://www.adweek.com/adfreak/cadillacs-new-ad-totally-inspiring-or-completely-repulsive-155703
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  • Good afternoon everyoneLet me start by saying what an honour it is to be here, and thank you all for coming.Today I’m talking about how the demands to make everything a success, and more specifically how the pressures to avoid failing are responsible for much of the droll marketing seen day-to-day.
  • I’m not going to claim that all failure is good.There are different types. Some bad. Some not so bad. Perhaps even good.
  • When a photo of one of your employees allegedly licking food that’s about to be served to customers get’s reshared to the point that it ends up on CNN… That’s comfortably in the ‘not so great category...You’ll also be pleased to know, that while the employee was fired, the franchisee in question still runs that specific Taco-Bell...It also has 4 star reviews on both Yelp and Google and a 100% A-Rating in it’s food hygiene inspections. I should add before moving on that, these tacos were apparently not for customer consumption – they were, Taco Bell claims, to be on their way to the bin, or part of a training exercise. Or something equally convenient. // And so the story begins… Even when you fall on your face this hard. It’s manageable. // So why are we all so scared? // Going from one extreme to the other…
  • Other things that are seen as failures by some, are in reality brilliant.Coca-cola caused an uproar during it’s NFL spot by dividing it’s audience. The ad showed America’s multicultural and diverse citizens, including the first ad in Super Bowl history to feature a gay couple, going about their lives while the song “America the Beautiful” was being sung in different languages.
  • Reaction was fast and furious on both sides, with conservatives reminding that this is America where English is spoken, and liberals responding that there is no official language and everyone who says so is racist.Everyone got involved… including fox news commentator Todd Starnes.Some of the statements were quite shocking. The volume of negative tweets grew exponentially and the #BoycottCoke hashtag trended for aw
  • The conversation lasted 5 times longer than any of their previous 4 NFL TV spots and the uplift in conversation was the greatest too. Not to mention the TV coverage because of the debate. The really encouraging thing was the scale of the advocate army that came to defend coke’s decisions.
  • When I say polemic, I’m referring to the second definition seen here. “the art or practice of engaging in a controversial debate or dispute.”By virtue of creating a debate, you engage your audience in a more involving way both emotionally and mentally than the thousands of wallpaper-like messages we’re exposed to day-to-day. And it’s one of the most under utilised tools in our arsenal for driving sustained participation from your audience.Because at the end of the day, our clients are hiring us to drive.
  • And actually, they mean ‘short term positive ROI’, it doesn’t matter if returns will materialise in two years, the environment is usually one where they need to show their CFOs they delivered returns… not this year, not this quarter but, this month. The odds of success are slim.
  • BUT, brands and clients want to have their cake and eat it. Everything must be a success. Everything must be an improvement on last time. Everything must have a positive ROI.
  • I like to remember the word ‘investment’ at these times and try to take a deep breath.Since when have investments been sure things? Think about all the venture capital firms that have been scoping out the start-ups that are here this weekend… professional investors and yet none of the investments they make are sure things.You create a strategy, you vary it, and you hope that some of them pay off big. And in my experience, the more dangerous, the more risky, the more exciting the activity the more likely it is that we’ll be having an easy conversation about ROI with our clients than when we play it safe.
  • Marketing investments Should be <click>A portfolio strategy
  • If all you’re going to do is play it safe…you may as well just invest in bonds.(you’ll note, that approximately 0% of Leonardo Di Caprio’s recent role was spent taking long-term safe positions on bonds.)The problem with safe marketing is that it’s just not that exciting. Impactful. sexy.
  • In fact, playing it safe leads to Undifferentiated.UnremarkableandUnmemorableAnodyne-box-ticking-campaigns.These are never going to win the way we want them to. They’ll merely not fail. And let’s be clear, not failing – is not the same as winning.
  • Have a look online around any ‘culturally relevant event’And you can see this murky sea of pitiful ripples for yourself.While the goal is to do something that breaks. Something that has enough momentum to sustain.
  • Have a look online around any ‘culturally relevant event’And you can see this murky sea of pitiful ripples for yourself.While the goal is to do something that breaks. Something that has enough momentum to sustain.
  • Have a look online around any ‘culturally relevant event’And you can see this murky sea of pitiful ripples for yourself.While the goal is to do something that breaks. Something that has enough momentum to sustain.
  • Have a look online around any ‘culturally relevant event’And you can see this murky sea of pitiful ripples for yourself.While the goal is to do something that breaks. Something that has enough momentum to sustain.
  • Have a look online around any ‘culturally relevant event’And you can see this murky sea of pitiful ripples for yourself.While the goal is to do something that breaks. Something that has enough momentum to sustain.
  • Have a look online around any ‘culturally relevant event’And you can see this murky sea of pitiful ripples for yourself.While the goal is to do something that breaks. Something that has enough momentum to sustain.
  • In the Domino’s did something a bit different on Valentine’s day.Rather than focusing on those “in love” like every other brand, they focused on those looking for it. The uncelebrated mass of single people.Using Tinder, a location based dating app, to find people and offer them a “Date with Domino’s”.Yes, it was risky. What if people were offended? What if Facebook found out that we’d created a ‘user profile’ for brand use? What if Tinder found out what we were doing? How would they react?These were all risks, but really, how big are they? We weren’t playing it fast and loose with customer personably identifiable information… The risk was getting shut down. The risk was getting close to nothing from an investment.But the upside made it worth the risk. And in this instance, the results were spectacular. Given a 10% chance of standing out, or a 100% chance of fading into the background, as your client’s trusted advisors, it’s your duty to be advising against it.
  • The fear of cataclysmic failure is so great that we tend towards this land of safety. Of mediocrity. Of dullness.This fear sucks the air out of the room,leaving both you and your agencies gasping for air. “That sounds risky – is it within the brand guidelines?”“I don’t think we can afford to alienate the stay-at-home mother audience”“what happens if people don’t find it funny? I’m not sure about the Tone of Voice”You can't create sparks in a vacuum. Or as EstherPerel put’s it.“fire needs air”
  • So let’s go back to the Superbowl.Look at the ratio of the peak in 2014 to the baseline compared with other years.(As a side note, look at how much more buzz there is now than just 5 years ago as a baseline ~50K mentions per day in the US)
  • And finally, here we can see how the duration of the conversation varied by year.Here you can see how the debate, powered the conversation on for days after the superbowl.It sustained.
  • Why is this so important? In today’s cluttered digital space, the ultimate indicator of success is seeing your activity sustained once the media is turned off. We want interest over time to move from resembling Rocky Mountain Peaks To Rolling Hills of Sustained Conversation!!So how do we stack the odds in our favour? Divide your audience Create a conversation. Find a way to get your audience to participate.*CLICK*- Participation Drives Performance.
  • What intrigues me is that this is such OLD NEWS.Newspapers & News channels have always known this. Why is it that when we're in this maturing era of content-firstmarketing, and brand-storytelling, are we so scared of allowing, or making our audience take sides or have an opinion?What if we cock up I hear you say? What about the tremendous social media back-lash we could face?Take a leap of faith and look at these awful “foot-in-mouth” examples to give you courage…
  • Yes, we all know that plane crashes are notoriously hilarious… epic fail. Made 1000 times worse by the fact that a young child died in the incident photographed.No doubt, awful. As bad as it is – Did it effect them in anyway? No.
  • Rape is certainly not something to make light of. When Belvedere posted this and caused an uproar on facebook and the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network got involved it was quite alarming for them.Shockingly, they still stock Belvedere in most clubs.
  • J.P. Morgan thought it could engage its consumer base through an enlightening Twitter Q&A session. Except they were completely ignorant of what their brand represented to the trolling masses of the Internet. Even respected journalists joined in on six hours of harassment fun.As you’re all aware, JP Morgan are still standing.
  • Perhaps my favourite recent example of brands standing up for themselves.Tesco mobile, a budget mobile operator in the UK that has a bad reputation decide that they’re going to change their image from being a joke, to making the jokes. Relishing every opportunity they have to engage with flamers and trolls they’re kicking the legs out from under them like a comedian trashing hecklers by being wittier, funnier, meaner and – in the process – making lots of friends, lots of fans, lots of customers and getting lots of publicitiy.All from a strategy that hinges on taking the piss out of potential customers.
  • Perhaps my favourite recent example of brands standing up for themselves.Tesco mobile, a budget mobile operator in the UK that has a bad reputation decide that they’re going to change their image from being a joke, to making the jokes. Relishing every opportunity they have to engage with flamers and trolls they’re kicking the legs out from under them like a comedian trashing hecklers by being wittier, funnier, meaner and – in the process – making lots of friends, lots of fans, lots of customers and getting lots of publicitiy.All from a strategy that hinges on taking the piss out of potential customers.
  • Perhaps my favourite recent example of brands standing up for themselves.Tesco mobile, a budget mobile operator in the UK that has a bad reputation decide that they’re going to change their image from being a joke, to making the jokes. Relishing every opportunity they have to engage with flamers and trolls they’re kicking the legs out from under them like a comedian trashing hecklers by being wittier, funnier, meaner and – in the process – making lots of friends, lots of fans, lots of customers and getting lots of publicitiy.All from a strategy that hinges on taking the piss out of potential customers.
  • Perhaps my favourite recent example of brands standing up for themselves.Tesco mobile, a budget mobile operator in the UK that has a bad reputation decide that they’re going to change their image from being a joke, to making the jokes. Relishing every opportunity they have to engage with flamers and trolls they’re kicking the legs out from under them like a comedian trashing hecklers by being wittier, funnier, meaner and – in the process – making lots of friends, lots of fans, lots of customers and getting lots of publicitiy.All from a strategy that hinges on taking the piss out of potential customers.
  • So the rule of thumb you need.Only compete and interact at a level that suits your brand.When Kenneth Cole tried to use the Egyptian revolution to try to sell product, that was a failure not only because it was obscene, but the topic was too big for the brand.It’s tough to punch above your weight in this game. However, the closer to your limit you get, the more successful you stand to be.
  • So in closing..Don’t be scared of failing.1. There’s different types of failure, Most of them are easily resolved. (That’s what PR & Crisis management are for.)
  • No one is going to die.2. I looked through ALL of the top marketing fails of 2013. Of which there were literally hundreds of articles. Thank you mashable, buzz-feed, Reddit and every other one of those addictive sites for eating away hours of my life. Not one of the companies I came across no longer exists. YES, some people got fired. YES, CEOs made statements. YES, maybe there were some scape goats made BUT, if that’s all you’ve got to lose surely we can do better?!
  • 3. Playing safe is failing. You will not be remarkable. You are signing your death. Marketing has changed, and without your audience participating, you don’t stand a chance. Now, there’s always someone who has said it better. SO let me leave you with the words of ol’ Sam.
  • Transcript

    • 1. Make Them Hate You! Why polemic marketing fails, ‘win’ #bepolemic
    • 2. There are different types of failure to be fearful of. #bepolemic@adam_abrahami
    • 3. Taco Bell Guy – Featured on major news channels and sites. Uproar on Facebook with thousands of re-shares #bepolemic@adam_abrahami
    • 4. 375% increase in baseline buzz on airing. Conversation sustained for a full week. 170% more mentions in week after than on the day. Featured on every major news channel and site. #bepolemic@adam_abrahami
    • 5. #bepolemic@adam_abrahami
    • 6. 375% increase in baseline buzz on airing. Conversation sustained for a full week. 170% more mentions in week after than on the day. Featured on every major news channel and site. #bepolemic@adam_abrahami
    • 7. #bepolemic@adam_abrahami
    • 8. Positive Return on Investment #bepolemic@adam_abrahami
    • 9. Best f$*#ng campaign ever. Every time. #bepolemic@adam_abrahami
    • 10. Positive Return on Investment @adam_abrahami #bepolemic
    • 11. Marketing investment should be a portfolio strategy. Marketing investment should be a portfolio strategy. #bepolemic@adam_abrahami
    • 12. Playing it safe… (investing in bonds) @adam_abrahami #bepolemic
    • 13. Undifferentiated. Unremarkable. Unmemorable. Playing it safe… #bepolemic@adam_abrahami
    • 14. #bepolemic
    • 15. #bepolemic
    • 16. #bepolemic
    • 17. #bepolemic
    • 18. #bepolemic
    • 19. #bepolemic
    • 20. GOOD: Domino’s Tinder +700 Matches, 115 x one-to-one conversations. +2,250,000 Potential PR Reach. +200,000 Potential Social Reach. £0.08 effective CPM. #bepolemic@adam_abrahami
    • 21. Fear of failure forces us to play it safe. #bepolemic@adam_abrahami
    • 22. Coca-Cola buzz around the NFL Super bowl over time 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 #bepolemic@adam_abrahami
    • 23. Coca-Cola buzz around the NFL Super bowl over time (10) (8) (6) (4) (2) 0 2 4 6 8 10 7 days 2014 (Other Years) vs 1 usually #bepolemic@adam_abrahami
    • 24. Participation drives performance ` #bepolemic@adam_abrahami
    • 25. #bepolemic@adam_abrahami
    • 26. ... There are risks, certainly some topics should be avoided completely…
    • 27. Belvedere Vodka
    • 28. …but, even in the most horrific of cases, everything tends to turn out OK…
    • 29. …And some brands, are really turning the tables…
    • 30. So how do you draw the line?
    • 31. Topic Sensitivity Brand Interest Debate vs. Disgust, Where to draw the line? Debate Disgust #bepolemic@adam_abrahami
    • 32. Most failures are easily resolved. #bepolemic@adam_abrahami
    • 33. Nobody is going to die. #bepolemic@adam_abrahami
    • 34. Playing safe is playing to lose. #bepolemic@adam_abrahami
    • 35. EVER TRIED. EVER FAILED. NO MATTER. TRY AGAIN. FAIL AGAIN. FAIL BETTER. Samuel Becket #bepolemic@adam_abrahami
    • 36. Thank youadam.abrahami@iris-worldwide.com #bepolemic@adam_abrahami

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