Marketing With Conflict

If you are an intelligent person you hate Associated Press. I’m all for referencing content and paying for fair use but their rules for bloggers are just a little extreme. That’s why I feel in love with Woot all over again when they called out Associated Press for using Woot content and calculated money owing using AP’s own rules.

Marketing with Conflict

A simple concept, the beauty lies in execution. I doubt anybody honestly thinks Woot is trying to collect their $17.50 yet the media coverage is invaluable.

Marketing with conflict (I’m sure there is a far more academic name for it) is where you not only call out a competitor for inferior service, misleading information, lying or a change of course. For consumers it’s not only great fun to watch giants go at it, but a good conflict likely represents problems customers have been dealing with. You are championing your target markets attitudes, feelings & grievances and supporting their ongoing conflict with other foes.

This is not a new concept. Michael O’Leary of RyanAir, one of the largest airlines in the world, is frequently constructing stunts to get his name covered. Air Lufthansa offered Gray Powell free flights to Germany to enjoy that famous German Beer after losing the iPhone 4 prototype in a bar. In the case of Woot, calling AP out made the tech press go gaga. I only wish more companies would do this. When used properly conflict can mobilize audiences for you, get major press coverage and boost your sales. The risk is you look nasty, petty or unprofessional.

How do you balance this? Some rules:

  • Decide what you want (press coverage, sales);
  • Align with their position (i.e. TechCrunch are known to hate Associated Press);
  • Don’t pick on anybody personally unless they are known to exploit your audience;
  • Tie to current events;
  • Don’t get too consistent or you will appear over-aggressive; and
  • Keep it fun (notice how every example I provided was not downright nasty yet still a call out?).

Off topic: If you are interested in more info on the Woot call out, both TechCrunch and Woot received not so nice e-mails from the Director of Media Relations who somehow tied their payment policies to the Gulf Oil spill. Hmph.