For marketers, branding is an easy concept. For me, as a technical guy, it took me a while to get it.
The more people aware that you or your product exists, the better the chance that they will buy from you. Simple, right?
But how do you get people to notice you in the first place? One of the most cost-effective ways is to get people to talk about you naturally. That is what is known as “word of mouth,” or in a broader sense, viral marketing. Link baiting could easily be called viral link-building because the concept is the same: get people to link to you naturally.
Expert marketers are well aware that the best way to get attention is to appeal to others’ emotions. Get others to stand up from their chairs and they will write about you, link to you, and so on. What happens when, instead of appealing to others’ positive emotions, you appeal to their negative ones? Like calling them names, ridiculing them, getting personal. Most of the time you get a lot of attention, but is it worth it?
Let me share a childhood experience that illustrates my point…When I was in high school I used to get a lot of attention for two traits: one positive and one negative. The positive one was that I would get assignments done in far less time (and far more accurately) than most of my classmates. By the time teachers said “pencils down” I was twiddling my thumbs in boredom. Kids not doing so well in school used to come to me for help and I was happy to offer it.
Because I finished my work earlier than most, I needed to find something to do to fill up my days. To kill time, I used to pester others and ended up in a lot of fights. As you may have guessed, this was my negative trait. I remember my parents’ constant visits to the school, all the reprimands, lectures, promises to do better…
The problem with fighting is that you never win. If I threw the last punch, I would walk around worried for days that I'd be ambushed in revenge. I'm glad that I figured out early in life that it was far better to stay out of trouble. On the other hand, I don't regret helping others and gaining the respect of being recognized as a leader.
Why am I bringing this up? Because now that I am blogging I see a trend that I really don't like. Most bloggers love controversy. I must say that I am also guilty of this. Reading bloggers argue about something and not backing it up definitely peaks my interest and gets me involved. It’s human nature.
But by igniting controversy, purposely or not, we're branding ourselves negatively. We definitely get a lot of attention, like I used to get from my adolescent fights, but we're not necessarily getting the type of attention we seek or need. I know it nice to see our traffic graphs jump, but how many of those visitors will look at that incident and say: “Wow, this is a really bright guy, I want to be like him!”? Most are just chanting, “Fight, fight, fight…”
We are forgetting that each brand has a message associated with it. Do we want to associate a positive message with our brand or do we want to associate a negative one? I am not sure about you, but the message I want to associate with my brand—my name—is only one: “I'm an advanced search marketer.”
What brand do you want to associate with yours?
August 11, 2007 at 1:05 pm
Cant say Ive noticed this, which sites are you on about?
August 11, 2007 at 5:41 pm
@Jez: Plenty of those around - take the recent hoopla re Rand Fishkin, the Dave Naylor-Jason Calacanis huff (and Jason Calacanis vs. the entire SEO industry's an ongoing classic), then there's Shoemoney who gets and distributes plenty of flak on occasion, and the list goes on. @Hamlet: Full agreement re how controversy as a means of branding can backfire terribly, especially if you target individual persons. But even institutions (such as the search engines in general and Google in particular) aren't always the best of targets. Look at Daniel Brandt who's widely being tagged with the "tinfoil hat" stigma (though quite undeservedly, IMO) because of his outspoken anti-Google stance. Obviously, if you polarize people you're pretty certain to lose that part of your audience that disagrees with you. But all of that's merely tactical. Personally, though I've been known to adopt a heavy hitter stance more thand once against behemoths like Google plus the entire PPC industry whenever it has another self-interested bash at playing down click fraud issues and hoodwinking the markets, I abide by the self-imposed rule that while there may not be anything "right" or "wrong" in any objective, absolute sense, I simply don't want to do things I'm not willing to stand up for - that's just about as much "ethics/morals" as I'm willing to put up with, but quite sufficient at that.
August 12, 2007 at 5:51 am
Ralph - thanks for your comment and for sharing some well known examples. <blockquote> Look at Daniel Brandt who’s widely being tagged with the “tinfoil hat” stigma (though quite undeservedly, IMO) because of his outspoken anti-Google stance. Obviously, if you polarize people you’re pretty certain to lose that part of your audience that disagrees with you. </blockquote> I think you agree with me that it is impossible to please everybody. <blockquote> But all of that’s merely tactical. Personally, though I’ve been known to adopt a heavy hitter stance more thand once against behemoths like Google plus the entire PPC industry whenever it has another self-interested bash at playing down click fraud issues and hoodwinking the markets, I abide by the self-imposed rule that while there may not be anything “right” or “wrong” in any objective, absolute sense, I simply don’t want to do things I’m not willing to stand up for - that’s just about as much “ethics/morals” as I’m willing to put up with, but quite sufficient at that. </blockquote> I don't see the work of anti-X bloggers in the same light as the ones pestering others to ignite controversy. I firmly think that we must stand against hidden agendas and hypocrisy. It is now common to see search engines trying to police the web and at the same time <a href="http://www.seobook.com/archives/002403.shtml" rel="nofollow">breaking the same rules they are trying to impose</a>. That is one of the reasons that I enjoy reading blogs like yours, Aaron Wall's and others that are not afraid to say what they think. Keep it up.
April 1, 2008 at 10:40 am
Great article. I prefer to use positive tactics, but controversy does seem to appeal more to the public. I choose to take the high road though.