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A question many marketers are asking is ‘Should I take part in the shock factor?’

Luckily for us, this doesn’t involve auditioning in front of Simon Cowell and Sharon Osbourne.

The ‘shock factor’ involves brands, or organisations using shocking or negative content to draw attention to them. It can be a dangerous game to play, but understandable when you think that most businesses are actively investing in content and social media marketing. Resulting in a marketplace that is becoming increasingly crowded with similar messages.

Using shocking and outlandish statements may be the only way to get their message heard.

There is a growing suggestion that ‘shocking’ or ‘negative’ content is more memorable and impactful than positive messages.

As a marketer, this thought process goes against everything I was taught and have experienced in my 10 years working as a marketer.

Some companies use this technique with success, such as charitable organisations and aid agencies.

Others have tried and failed. Most recently, Pepsi!

Pepsi hired Kendall Jenner (of the Kardashian family) to portray an activist in a promotional video. The video certainly shocked many and it received fierce backlash on Twitter. Resulting in Pepsi pulling the video after only 1 day!

Did Pepsi intend for the video to shock? Did they foresee the backlash and went ahead with it anyway? We don’t know, but it certainly got people talking.

Is going down this route the right thing for your brand?

As a freelance writer and marketer, I’ve always advised my clients that their marketing communications should always be built around a positive message.

When people visit your website, social media page or get in touch with you, they are doing so because they are looking for information or a solution to a problem. They are looking for a positive outcome, and don’t want to be greeted with further negative information that won’t help them.

There’s no issue with addressing a problem in your marketing communications as long as the main bulk of the content is focused on a direct solution or call to action – directing the audience to get in touch to discuss the solution.

When it comes to ‘shock’ or negative messaging, it may be better to leave it to brands that can handle the potential ‘fall-out’ and revenue loss, if it does go wrong.

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