Courting Controversy on Social Media: Marketing Strategy or Brand Suicide?

With the increasing focus on social media, marketing strategies are changing and many discussions are coming up about courting controversy in internet marketing. Some people think that it’s a bad thing while others dive in with reckless abandon, just hoping to make an impression. This topic isn’t something that can be generalized, however, because every single brand is different and what works for one might not work for another. Controversial advertising could be brand suicide, so you do have to be careful even considering it.

Social Media Marketing Controversy

In advertising history, “edgy” was the last thing that companies wanted. They stuck with relatable, friendly ads that got people’s attentions because being on the edge was considered too risky for business. The internet has changed that significantly. Now, people are exposed to things like pornography, horrific images of death and injury, and anything else you can imagine. Because of this desensitization and the societal fascination with controversial topics, many companies are giving controversy a chance in their marketing strategy. It seems to be less about whether or not to use this tool and more about how to use it right.

With the right plan, even controversial advertising can make a brand famous. Of course, you have to ask yourself if that’s a good thing for your brand. GoDaddy, for example, has gained quite a bit of notoriety for their previously pulled Super Bowl commercial. That doesn’t mean that they are successful, of course, because it depends on how that notoriety is perceived. If it’s a negative association, the brand loses. If people have a positive reaction to the controversy, they win. Since everyone is different, there are a lot of variables and potential outcomes to consider.

Before you do any kind of advertising, whether it is controversial or not, think about your audience. Will they appreciate the advertising? Will the message get your point across and help your brand? Do the people that you are reaching out to appreciate edgy topics or non-traditional marketing? A professional consulting firm is better off sticking to traditional marketing, for example, while a specialty adult store might actually need to push the limits to get noticed.

In general, courting controversy is not always a good choice. However, upon further investigation, it appears that it can help companies build their brand awareness in some cases. That is the important thing to remember, though: controversy should be considered on a case-by-case basis. Consider the goals of your marketing strategy, your intended audience and whether they will appreciate the risky move, and what negative ramifications controversial ads and posts could have on your brand.

At I Think an Idea, we know how important it is to make a lasting impression with social media. Our management services and solutions can help you with all of your marketing needs. Contact us to learn more at


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