Home Strategy 3 Secret Tips To Create Controversy And Make Your Brand Famous…

3 Secret Tips To Create Controversy And Make Your Brand Famous…


Controversial branding is always going to be a big thing for your brand. Controversy will either make your brand famous or defame it in unforgiving ways.

But here’s the billion dollar question:

How can we create that shock wave without negating our brand’s positive image?

Controversial branding can be the overnight secret of brand success, but if not planned properly, it will have a boomerang effect of a brand destroyer.

Are you ready to take the risk of controversial branding?

Though the answer is not simple, we can break the answer down into three reasonable points for easy understanding:

  1. What is the level of the controversy?
  2. How is the brand related to the controversy?
  3. What are you prepared to do in case the campaign backfires?

Sometimes big brands use highly controversial images in their campaigns, and through social sharing, the campaign manages to popularize the brand above expectations. But sometimes, this controversy destroys the brand’s positive image.

According to a study performed by the Wharton School of Business –  “Controversy increases the likelihood of discussion at low levels, but beyond a moderate level of controversy, it actually decreases the likelihood of discussion.”

You need to figure out how to create enough controversy to engage the audience in conversation, but not enough to push them away.

Step 1. Choose The Level Of Controversy

There are two main types of controversy:

  1. Debatable controversy
  2. Shocking/Taboo controversy

The first one is rational; people debate the “controversy” based on really obvious opinions. If you are using a debatable campaign idea for your brand, it is relatively safe. Most of your audience probably supports your thoughts, and this agreement between you and your audience strengthens your base even further.

Here’s an example of a relatively safe, “debatable” kind of controversy:

Pretty much everyone can agree that racism is bad. While this campaign is going to offend racists, the target demo (anyone not racist) will find this image funny.

Here’s a study by Abodo.com called “Tolerance In America” which researched 12 million tweets with obscene language in the US and ranked them state by state:

controversial branding

Here’s an instance of a controversial topic, but that topic is so unimportant that no one would really be offended by it.

In a “debatable” type of controversy, it’s hard to see a brand’s image being harmed.

But with the second type of controversy (“shocking/taboo”), you may not be sure whether your brand will create a positive or negative impact on the minds of a majority of your supporters.

Here is the world famous controversial campaign of “Kissing Nun” by United Colors of Benetton:

Fortunately for United Colors, this campaign made them world famous.

The idea was that their brand could “unite” strongly contrasting opposites with acceptance of multiculturalism, difference, and a sense of equality. It wanted to remove the message of the “sanctity of religion” and replace it with a message of “universal love”.

But these social taboos are very dangerous when creating brand campaigns. While they have the power to catapult a brand into the limelight, they can also drastically hurt a brand’s image.

Let’s look at some examples where the latter happened…

This Amsterdam-based menswear brand released its “Toy Boys” campaign: 

Many saw this image as portraying a woman’s body being a perverted playground for men. The controversy became a burning issue and created a very negative reputation for the brand.

Here is another example from Match.com:

There are many ads which subtly suggest that women cannot be appealing to men without the help of cosmetics. But Match.com blatantly calling the natural skin type of women an “imperfection” went a little too far.

The point is this: It is always recommended to try and attain a “debatable” level of controversy. This will raise the eyebrows of your audience, but it probably won’t create any shocking impacts and trigger any negative impressions on your brand’s image.

Step 2. Connect The Controversy With Your Brand

Searching for and regurgitating a debatable topic is not enough to effectively promote your brand.

You have to be clever enough to associate the controversy with your brand.

Here is an excellent example of the campaign of United Nation:

Here you can see the full 1 minute video campaign.

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