Monday, March 28, 2011

‘Baiting outrage’ and other social media marketing tactics

The way I see it, ABC News and the Today Show just ran a ten-minute infomercial for Abercrombie & Fitch. The lure? The “oversexualized” push up padded bikini on Abercrombie Kids. Mommy bloggers and social media parenting experts all took the bait and jumped right into the outrage feeding frenzy. It’s bad for girls self esteem. Who needs padding when you are 8? The only reason for a push up anything is to push sexuality.

Okay, okay, we get it.

Actually, we all got it a long time ago, as in the 1970s, which is why I think this whole outrage thing is kinda silly. Even my 8 year-old daughter was rolling her eyes at the experts on the Today Show this morning. “Bad for girls? Huh? It’s just a boring striped bathing suit.” And then... “Mommy, what does ‘oversexualization’ mean?”

Thank you, Meredith Vieira, for today’s word of the day!

Lucky for Abercrombie & Fitch, they’re back in the news as being an “edgy” brand targeting youth, which is exactly where they want to be. The moms who ban Barbies and Bratz dolls aren’t shopping there anyway, so for them, this latest stunt amounts to a whole lotta free publicity and traffic. I can just hear the A & F execs in their closed-door meetings... "oh yeah, nice boost in traffic... all we had to do is name the product 'push up' and then change it to something boring like 'triangle' and the hub-bub will be forgotten by tomorrow... meanwhile, sales are great."

Baiting outrage, a term coined by Amy Jussel, media literacy expert and founder/executive director of, seems to be the new normal for going viral. Amy pointed me to a new Tufts study on media and incivility, further proof that the headlines just keep getting worse and worse even while the hard data on news and trends often proves otherwise.

Here’s the problem. Traditional marketing doesn’t really work anymore and we’re all getting a little tired of social media and blogging and e-mail marketing, with all of those #giveaways we can #win and #promo codes that are about to expire and #exclusive offers that aren’t really exclusive at all. Every marketer is clamoring for attention so it’s not surprising that “padded push up bikini for 7 year-olds” was able to cut through the clutter and actually grab out attention. Only… you’re smarter than that and you’re not going to fall for it next time. Right? Right.

I was in a client meeting this morning discussing – you guessed it – an upcoming marketing campaign for a product targeted to children and one of the partners mentioned in an aside, “You know... my husband is one of those tech people who’s always a year or two ahead of the trends. And guess what he just did? He erased his online profile. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Foursquare… poof! Gone.”

In a virtual world full of media frenzy – one that doesn’t necessarily mirror the real world we actually live in – erasing one’s frenzied social media presence has a lot of appeal.

So, marketers, how will you reach your customers then?

1 comment:

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