Social media bubble

With thousands of brands shifting focus and investing in social media-centric marketing, it’s no surprise that the internet has become a saturated space filled with CTA’s, discounts and promotions. Youtube ads, Facebook boosted posts, and popular home-brand logos at the corner of every lifestyle/personal blog – netizens are bombarded with incessant amount of ads.

Undoubtedly, channelling money into social media advertising is the obvious thing to do today; however, amidst viral videos, click-bait articles, and funny listicles topping the audience engagement game, many brand messages have just become very bothersome white noise. This has even urged millions to download ad-blockers, limiting the amount of promotional content they see on their social media.

How then can your brand (however niche) stand out, avoid being a part of the noise and generate engaging content?

What is engaging, even?

Generate content that sparks discussion and divides opinion

Newspapers then and news-sites today have captured mass interest and attention because they’ve banked in on public outrage, emotion and opinion. Make no mistake, if your brand values are about inclusivity and wholesome family messages, it might be best to skip this article altogether and stick to your guns. If, on the other hand, your brand has been struggling to engage an online demographic that is highly selective about the information they consume, it might be due time to cash in on a very opinionated generation.


Take a stance.

We get it – brands want to play it safe by not pushing anyone’s buttons. But on social media today, the safe is boring and the boring very quickly equates to zero engagement. This is because playing safe sparks no further discourse; bold stances and thought-provoking content on the other hand, spurs netizens to engaging each other and your brand.

Here’s what we mean

Smashing prices

Chances are, you’ve read about Jamal Yunos’ beer-smashing stint, naturally leading to the outrage of many. Merdekarya, a music bar, takes a very obvious stance in their promotional advert without actually explicitly stating a stance.

Subtract the silhouette of Jamal Yunos and the cheeky headline and what’s left is a generic bar promoting discounted drinks. This is effective social media content that cashes in on the emotions and opinions of the public because it’s both controversial and entertaining. Controversial and offensive to some, but definitely entertaining to their target demographic of drinkers.

It’s not so much about who is offended or who’s validated – it’s about how many people are engaging with your brand online.


Dove ad

Dove is a prime example of leveraging on public outrage whilst playing it safe and inclusive. Many activists and netizens have spoken out against the unhealthy and unrealistic beauty standards of women portrayed by conventional media. Dove makes a very clear stance here, in favour of the warranted outrage.

If Dove were to go with a photo of a white Caucasian woman with a tagline that says ‘beautifying skin’, do you suppose that would’ve gathered as much online engagement as the above advert?

Five years ago, a Malaysian KFC employee punched a customer in the face. 24 hours later, public outcry erupted on Facebook. Netizens were quick to shun the employee, KFC, and it’s bad management.

Nando’s wasted no time in embracing a golden opportunity. In face of outcry and strong sentiments, Nando’s sought to benefit from emotional turmoil to much success.

Nando’s was praised for it’s witty, tongue-in-cheek approach to bad customer service without adding fuel to the flame. The result was a far from bland branding message, consistent with their values and class. Most importantly, we still remember this advert from five years ago.

Now that’s engaging and memorable content that successfully leveraged on strong public sentiment.

The Takeaway

From a business perspective, whether or not your brand will gain from taking a stance on a controversial issue largely depends on your target market and willingness to innovate and leverage on public outrage. However, at this point in time not standing for anything and playing it safe could be what’s costing you thousands in unclicked, unengaging online ads.

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How would your brand participate in the golden age of the geek?

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