If you can peel your eyes from the image below long enough to read the white text, this recent billboard for the CW’s teen drama Gossip Girl demonstrates a branding trend we’re seeing more of in the wild.
Apparently adhering to the adage that “any press is good press,” the billboard revels in its unfavorable review by the New York Post.
Similarly, Scion has no illusions of universal appeal, and embraces this in its aptly dubbed “Polarization” campaign
. Print ads and billboards beg the viewer to choose between “Champ” and “Chump,” or “Hell Yes!” and “Hell no!”
Perhaps the most explicit campaign in making consumers take sides is the new effort for Crocs footwear, which invites consumers to “tell us what you think!” by visiting crocslovehate.com
. The page lets you click on “I am a lover” or “I am a hater” and to post comments and videos, whether to praise or to pillory.
Doesn’t it seem counterintuitive to acknowledge, much less flaunt, the negative perceptions of a brand? How can a brand possibly benefit from publicizing criticism of itself?
Sure, an ad campaign is ultimately about selling a product, which is why giving consumers a reason (or several) not to buy into the brand is risky. But brand positioning is about more than just the shiny veneer of a “We’re #1!” campaign. It’s about forging an emotional connection with audiences.
Scion doesn’t attempt to turn loathing into love with an ad – instead they cement their bond with a fan base that prides itself on being different.
Similarly, the Gossip Girl and Crocs campaigns seek an emotional reaction from consumers. Granted, for some it’s a vitriolic one, but for others the brands are expressions of identity. And by underscoring the fact that they aren’t for all tastes, these brands solidify their base and perhaps even raise some eyebrows among a broader audience.
In other words, an expression of contempt for Crocs is as telling as a proclamation of love for Louboutins. What these brands ultimately hope for is that those who reside at the adoring end of the spectrum feel more strongly, and fight more fiercely in favor of the product, as those who deride it; and that the controversy itself catches the attention of those who have yet to make up their minds.