Shock Marketing
Tuesday, May 24, 2011 at 8:44AM
Matthew Bywater

"Shockvertising" is a way to jolt our senses, to cause an immediate reaction. Shock is sometimes used by marketers to grab the attention of consumers before applying the sales pitch.  Shocking titles, pictures or actions never fail to get the attention of an audience. Think about the last time you heard something about any business that made you look up their website. In the overflow of information these days; how does your business stand out?
While it can be an effective tactic it is important to understand when to use it and when not to.

The 4 main reasons to use Shockvertising are -

1) Grab the Attention and cut through the noise in a congested market place
2) Obtain a viral spread (get people talking about your ad and hopefully spread it on)
3) Speed - your message will be more quickly taken up by the audience
4) Get a following - it becomes part of your brand, people will be waiting for what's next
All sounds good right? But there is some downside to this tactic. Constant shock will lessen with impact over time, as I mentioned in The Morning Show (video below) you will have to consistently increase the shock value as the audience becomes accustomed to each level of shock. The question is how shocking can you go before it becomes absurd or offensive?

Use this link if you can't view this video

Marketers use shockvertising when the backlash will be less than the marginal gain.  If the target segment reacts negatively to the ad, you can lose goodwill and customers. 

Marketers must also make shockvertising meaningful.  If the advertisement is too abstract, consumers may not get the right message, a goal that is crucial in making an impact beyond the initial "shock". 

Shockvertising can also cheapen the brand, if the product is of high value then the need for this tactic is questionable. You will not see high quality brands like Mercedes Benz or Land Rover using these tactics, their focus is on the quality of the product not the advertisement itself.

For an example of a good shockvertisement, this one from the 80's is a classic.

Use this link if you can't view this video


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Article originally appeared on Matthew Bywater | Marketing Strategist & Media Commentator (
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