Published on August 25th, 2011 | by Tom Wake1
Can you profit from these ‘shock jock’ marketing techniques?
A shock jock is a radio show host with an offensive-on-purpose presenting style. By offensive I mean laughing at other people’s misfortune, making fat jokes… saying words like “poo” a lot, that sort of thing. Howard Stern’s a famous example of a shock jock.
So how does this apply to online marketing?
Well, I saw the following posted on a popular online marketing forum the other day and I think it provides an excellent example…
“I acquired this site last year… Do you guys see any potential in this thing or is it way too over the top? It certainly does keep the readers attention, but would someone be willing to buy anything from this author?
www. yourefatbecauseyourestupid. com”
The answer might seem an obvious “NO THAT’S A TERRIBLE IDEA” but it actually raises a very interesting debate.
While this isn’t a technique I would personally endorse (I prefer building up long term relationships with readers) using ‘shock jock’ tactics in your marketing can yield impressive results, especially in the short term.
You may remember an Internet Marketing phenomenon called The Rich Jerk. He was considered a pioneer in some circles. His marketing pitch could be summarised in the following sentence:
“I’m brilliant, you’re an BLEEPING BLEEP BLEEEEEEP loser… buy my BLEEPING stuff”.
Honestly that was his pitch.
His emails were littered with swear words and abuse. The thing is though, people would click on his adverts, sign up to his ezine and buy from him.
This guy made a LOT of money.
How can this happen?
When someone goes all out against the grain we feel compelled to stop and listen…
Why? Because different stands out.
Simon Cowell’s made a whole TV career on being different, on being blunt, sometimes to the point of being cruel. People tune in to listen because they’re not used to hearing someone talking that way.
Now let’s look at how this could apply elsewhere.
We’re exposed to thousands of adverts every day. Most of them we barely notice because they’ve become part of the wallpaper of everyday life.
Billboards at the bus stop… the slimming ads on tele… online poker ads in men’s toilets. They all merge into one.
“This will make you beautiful, this was make you rich… here’s a discount for this, here’s a discount for that.”
These techniques all work, but do they stick in your memory? Do they differentiate themselves from other adverts?
No, not usually.
On the other hand if you saw an advert telling you you’re a “loser”, filled with swearing and offensive comments, like it or not it would make you double take, it would catch your attention.
There’s intrigue. Who is this guy… why’s he not trying to be nice to me?
You want to find out more, you click on the link and he has your attention.
How can you use this in your own marketing efforts?
I personally wouldn’t use shock jock tactics on anything that’s tied specifically to your name or brand.
Why? Because in the long term you don’t want people associating your name or business with being ‘rude’ in any shape or form. It’s a label that sticks.
This sort of approach lends itself better to guerrilla marketing. You could use it to drive traffic to a particular website or offer… a one-off product or an affiliate link.
Think about how you can get creative with the idea. To shock people you don’t have to be sweary or arrogant or rude. There are a thousand different ways to approach this.
You could try being quirky, charming… sexy even. There are really no limits (although do try and keep some moral code in place so you can sleep at night!)
I received a subject line from a marketing email recently that just read:
“I like you…”
That’s a subject line that caught me off guard and it worked well. I saw the “from address” (a boring corporate one) and then read the rather forward subject line and thought: “what on earth?!” and felt compelled to read it.
You could try testing a few ideas in banner adverts or Google ad campaigns and have them lead through to a squeeze page (signup page). Try a variety of different ‘shock’ headlines and see which get the most clicks.
Get adventurous with the copy. Play around with it and see what improves your conversion rate.
Now if you do use this technique there are a couple of things to bear in mind…
1) Remember, whatever you do you always need to provide the reader with a benefit – whether or not you’re using these ‘shock jock’ tactics.
You can’t just swear or say something outrageous and expect people to buy from you.
The shock element is about getting their attention, about getting them to hear you above the rest of noise in their lives. But you must also have a solid benefit that you’re pushing through.
People will quickly get bored and move onto the next thing if they don’t sense a pay off, so you need to keep your core offer in hand. Make it very clear and be specific.
Prove to them that you and only you can solve their problem. What makes you the expert? Why are you so confident you’ve got the fix-all? Show them that you know what you’re talking about.
The Rich Jerk used to brag about how much money he’d made online. He created elaborate videos, described lots of lavish parties… did the whole ‘take a look at my mansion’ thing.
It’s the sort of nonsense flashy brag that’s done to death these days (and I hate it personally) but they gave his arrogance a sense of context.
He was effectively saying: “Look, I don’t give a bleeeeeep about you, I’m already rich. I can show you how to do the same if you want but it’s no skin off my back”.
As I reader you have to grant him some credibility. He’s not just swearing for the sake of it… he’s being shocking and rude because he doesn’t give a damn.
It’s the same again with Simon Cowell. We’re bombarded with images of his flashy lifestyle in LA, the cars, the girls and the money. He’s rude and but somehow gets away with it because he’s proven that he’s successful. He’s effectively saying I don’t need to care about what anyone thinks because I’m already successful.
It might not be good, it might not be fair or right, but it taps into some pretty basic human psychology.
The biggest problem with the shock jock model is that once people ‘get it’ it loses its power very quickly.
And this is a point worth repeating. If you do attempt anything like this, be very careful to ensure you don’t do anything with you’re not comfortable with in the long term. It might seem like a good idea to swear at your potential customers now… but 6 months down the line they might not remember it with rose tinted glasses!