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Thought for the day: Is there such a thing as bad content?

There’s the saying, “There’s no such thing as bad publicity!”


If you had to think of one, we’re sure you could conjure up the name of a well-known brand that has, at some point, been associated with a scandal or disgrace of some sort. A brand that not only survived all that was slung at it in the media at the time, but which is still as financially sound and even more notorious as a result today.


Phineas T. Barnum’s famous quote above is one Oscar Wilde would agree with; he said, “The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.” Both men would say there’s no such thing as ‘bad content’ when it comes to promoting yourself, or the things consumers/suppliers/the wider world may say about you.


Take Wendy’s, the U.S. burger chain founded in the 1960s; they insult their customers as a real-time marketing strategy. It has put the brand in-front of a new generation, who actively prompt the company’s social media channels to ‘roast’ them. People to whom Wendy’s dark/sarcastic humour appeals.


Most small to medium-sized businesses wouldn’t play so dangerously with their social media content. And had Wendy’s been at the outset of their journey, we don’t think they’d have used this risky strategy with their customers; their ‘reverse sales psychology’ has only been part of their marketing for a short while, many years after they’d gained a solid customer base who would likely stay loyal to their products regardless of the roastings the brand gives out across Twitter et al.


For every Wendy’s, there are hundreds of unknown brands treating their customers like kings, jumping when asked to jump; companies that are desperate to keep their clients happy in the hope they’ll return to their doors. It’s not unrealistic to think that 99% of companies publish good/nice content, with 1% (the Wendy’s of the world) deliberately publishing ‘bad’ or provocative content.


But if you believe Barnum and Wilde had a point, surely it would be better to be part of the 1%? Isn’t that that we tell businesses…to stand out from the crowd, to be the black sheep amongst a field of white ones? How will anyone notice a business if it’s within the 99%?!


So, does that mean you should go around insulting your customers, treating them terribly in the hope some of them find it funny and they think you’re the hippest, coolest thing since sliced bread? (What constitutes ‘bad’ content, anyway?)


Of course not. But, maybe there’s something to be said for taking risks with your marketing. Doing something the majority of people would find amusing, even if you’re damn sure the company’s staid, stuffy board of directors wouldn’t like it one bit.


A big mistake companies make when promoting themselves is that they assume things about the general public. “They won’t like that. They wouldn’t understand that. They would read things into that.”

Why not ask your consumers what they think is funny? Do you know, for instance, what they particularly like about your brand? What do they think of the content you put out – do they consider it good, bad – or worse still – do they not even pay attention to it?


Bad and good content is largely in the eye of the beholder (unless it crosses decency/moral lines, then most people are in agreement). You may create content that would not offend a flea, or which is naice, but which is flat-out boring… Tell us, given what your content is meant to do, wouldn’t that be classed as ‘bad’ content?


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