“Your ability to create raving fans is proportional to your willingness to piss off somebody else.” This is the basis of sales expert Perry Marshall’s philosophy on marketing.

This might not sound like the ideal approach to building up a new business, considering that the primary goal is to draw people in, not push them away. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to launch any campaign that will make audiences universally happy. Otherwise, our world would be single-minded, boring, and thereby stagnant in its progress. We’re left with only two options: be neutral or be controversial.

While neutrality might be a good tactic for maintaining peace and reducing the number of opponents one might face, it also reduces the number of consumers of a product. Consumers have no reason to invest themselves in something they have no strong interest in. What many businesses fail to realize is that it doesn’t matter whether that interest takes the form of love or hate.

One of the best examples is Fox News vs. CNN. While Fox News is notorious for its conservative stances, it consistently gets higher ratings than CNN’s more neutral coverage. Conservatives flock to this outlet because they enjoy getting information through a familiar lens. Fox News, though, also appeals to liberals who are granted a golden opportunity to further define their own viewpoints through the presence of a strong opposing force.

 

When marketing a new business, then, you need to ensure that you have a strong sense of your product or service in terms of its potential controversy. It will automatically be struggling against its predecessors, which will spark a natural debate. By fighting against what already exists, new businesses face inevitable challenges. By taking advantage of your opponents, though, you can expand your consumer population in ways that would have been impossible without establishing these controversial viewpoints.

Constance Kaita, MSD Intern