Individuals are bombarded by advertising and marketing messages on a daily basis.
How many? If you Google the question you get a wide variety of answers with the most prolific information indicating individuals are exposed to anywhere from 247 to 3000 ads (via TV, websites, the Internet, radio, paper media and more). My estimate is more in the 250-500 range.
With all this bombardment, it's difficult to stand out in a sea of ads and get noticed by prospective and current customers.
This is why shocking advertisements have become 'popular.' Their aim is to "deliberately, rather than inadvertently, startle(s) and offend(s) its audience by violating norms for social values and personal ideals," according to Darren W. Dahl, et. al in a report from 2003 entitled "Does It Pay to Shock? Reactions to Shocking and Nonshocking Advertising Content among University Students."
Shock advertising may seem like it has it's advantages. It can be done with a lower budget, helping a company garner more attention per dollar spent. It can increase the chances of going viral on social media. And can be stickier to those targeted.
But the downside or disadvantages of shock advertising includes a high amount of creativity to pull off a successful shock campaign that may take a lot of targeted marketing research to estimate if the creative accomplishes the goal. And, if not done correctly, it can damage a brand if the ad 'crosses the line,' sometimes even to the point of inviting legal and regulatory issues.
Shock advertising may be effective and possibly lead to increased brand awareness and sales, but it may also be so negative with some consumers, that it creates a negative impression toward the brand.
In addition shock advertising is and has become 'ubiquitous,' losing it's 'shock' value and going out of favor by those who have become 'shell shocked,' leading to ineffectiveness, and potentially creating a negative impact, as well.
To understand how advertising works you have to understand that individuals react to advertisements from many perspectives, leaving their 'take away' varied in many ways.
The principle measure of ads and marketing communications is the recall of the commercial content. To make an ad effective individuals need to remember the brand as well as the product/service advertised.
If individuals feel anger, their anger may overshadow their memory of the ad message. If the ad is overly sexual for those that are offended by sexual content, the memory recall of the product/service may wane. If the ad isn't memorable at all, then the product and service will not be recalled. You see where this is going.
Matching the emotion of the ad to the specific target individual's potential emotional response to the ad is the key to memory recall and consequently allowing the individual to remember the product and/or service.
One of the biggest risks a firm takes in using shock
advertising is that it can alienate its consumers and create a negative image in the minds of consumers. Studies have shown that consumers are less likely to
buy products from a brand who uses offensive advertisements if similar products are available from a firm who does not
make use of this type of advertising (An & Kim, 2006).
What one person sees as offensive, another may find funny. Take the GoDaddy Super Bowl commercial for example. While the rescue and pet related community online (primarily baby boomers) was very offended and up in arms over the ad, many of the Gen Y, Gen X generation individuals I talked with who don't frequent the dog loving community online (but are dog and pet lovers) thought the ad was funny and meant to be a parody. Which is what I believe GoDaddy intended it to be.
These individuals also said to me that the ad didn't influence whether they would purchase the service providers products or services. Why is that?
These younger individuals have grown up on shock advertising. Nothing is surprising them anymore. Whereas the 'baby boomer' generation didn't really have shock advertising come into their lives until the 90's. So shock advertising may still be 'shocking' to them.
Is this a generational 'thing?'
I remember well the Brooke Shields Calvin Klein ad in the mid '90's. Showcasing a very young girl in a sexually suggestive ad was deemed 'blasphemous' by some. What individuals saw as shocking in the 90's would not even phase most people today.
Shock advertising really began with the fashion industry, utilizing sexual connotations within their ads to get attention. Soon advertisers saw that shocking individuals garnered more attention leading other industries to follow, including Volvo with their controversial crash ads, to several charitable organizations utilizing shocking images of AIDS patients, starving children and abused animals to get attention and consequently more donations.
Now shock advertising is nearly everywhere from BuzzFeed's 'shocking' attention getting headlines for mundane articles, to pet related websites geared toward the younger generations utilizing teaser and shock headlines to garner more traffic.
This movement is one reason that Dog Fancy and Cat Fancy have made their way to the rainbow bridge when taken over by I-5 Publishing, and have now gone the way of the new Catster and Dogster (more on that in a later post).
But the real question is does shock advertising/marketing work? Does it sell more product and services?
Advertisers, marketers, professors, university students and the media have debated that question for years. And as far as I know there are no scientific studies to say that they work or don't work.
Here is my advice if you are thinking of utilizing a little shock advertising and marketing for your pet business:
The one and only thing to really consider is your brand. Do you want your brand to be shocking, controversial, and potentially risk a negative connotation? Some pet businesses do and utilize shock advertising. But if you want to have a well-respected, well made product, provide the ultimate in customer service and showcase your brand as such, then shock advertising is probably not for your business.
The current demographic that purchases the most pet products and services (baby boomers) likes warm and fuzzy, they like funny with 'taste,' they like cute. However that will change with the move to millennials and the Gen Y & Z generations. You will have to utilize more attention-getting advertising and marketing tactics to stand out from the crowd. Remember, they have seen a lot of 'shocking' things, much more at their age than baby boomers.
But the key will be how to garner their attention without creating a negative connotation to your brand. Creativity will be key.
For more information about how you can be more effective with your advertising and marketing, email us to schedule a time for a free 30 minutes consultation.
Journal of Advertising Research
Mediterranean Journal of Social Sciences
Photos courtesy of Leslie May (her Gracie is always shocked by something, usually a squirrel.)