When Edgy Goes Wrong: How to Be Different and Clearly Communicate Your Message

by / ⠀Startup Advice / February 26, 2013

Create an Edgy BrandTo succeed in online marketing, new brands must find their voice. It’s the main distinction start-ups can draw between themselves and their already established competitors.

Problem is, in the quest to stand out from the crowd, many new companies try to be edgy and different in their messaging…only to leave their target audience scratching their heads or turned off by the message altogether.

It’s a careful balancing act between the professionalism that accurately describes your products and services and a social, relatable tone that helps followers engage with your brand.

If your brand is ready to leave its comfort zone and embrace humor, relevancy, and even a bit of an edge in its online voice, here are some tips to make sure your target audience isn’t left in the dark.

Learn the line between edgy and offensive.

When finding your start-up’s voice, take note of some recent controversial content from high-profile brands, such as Reebok’s “Cheat on Your Girlfriend, Not on Your Workout” campaign. Sometimes edgy and provocative backfires if it crosses the line into offensive.

Even though the company released a similar ad—“Cheat on Your Boyfriend, Not on Your Workout”—for the ladies in its market, the campaign still sparked a lot of negative attention and was quickly pulled.

The key to toeing the line between edgy and offensive is to know your audience. Sure, there was probably a niche sect of Reebok’s market that thought the ad was funny and in good humor, but the majority of viewers rolled their eyes so hard, you could almost hear it. Remember the goal is to win the audience you want—and leave the door open for unexpected markets, too.

Know that shock value is overrated.

It’s true—shocking things tend to grab our attention. But while they manage to get us to look, oftentimes we won’t remember what we were supposed to take away from the shocking message.

Let’s take a look at the Lung Cancer Alliance’s “No One Deserves to Die” campaign.

In an example ad, we see a picture of a cardigan-clad, blond-haired girl with cat fur clinging to her sweater. Innocuous enough.

Then we see the bold letters: Cat Lovers Deserve to Die.

We know the ad comes from the Lung Cancer Alliance, so our wheels start turning: The message is cat lovers deserve to die…if they have lung cancer?

Nope, even that is more misdirection to really warm you up for what they actually want to say.

The point of the Lung Cancer Alliance’s message is that many people believe that if you have lung cancer, you did something to deserve it.

However, most viewers or readers will not muddle through all those layers of shock value and misdirection to get to this stretch, and you shouldn’t ask them to. After all, it’s task enough to convince most readers to accept your position and then act on it.

Be authentic.

Your brand is not just some marketing concoction—it represents you and what you stand for. Whether your brand says that you’re fun and lighthearted or that you’re serious and business-like depends completely on who you are. Your brand is your opportunity to show the world what makes you, well, you.

People are complex, and your brand should be, too. Let your brand represent something that’s always evolving, growing, and adapting to the changing times without losing sight of its fundamental values. You’re not going to win everyone over with an edgy brand, but if you’re sincere and authentic, then the people that you do connect with will remain loyal to your brand and its distinctive personality.

Michelle Salater is the CEO of S?mèr, a full-service copywriting firm and an award-winning writer and content expert featured in Entrepreneur Magazine, MyBusiness Magazine, M.O. Online, and Entreprenista, among others. She also connects with a worldwide audience and shares her expert advice via her radio show, Business Confessional Talk Radio.

Image Credit: Shutterstock.com

About The Author

Matt Wilson

Matt Wilson is Co-Founder of Under30Experiences, a travel company for young people ages 21-35. He is the original Co-founder of Under30CEO (Acquired 2016). Matt is the Host of the Live Different Podcast and has 50+ Five Star iTunes Ratings on Health, Fitness, Business and Travel. He brings a unique, uncensored approach to his interviews and writing. His work is published on Under30CEO.com, Forbes, Inc. Magazine, Huffington Post, Reuters, and many others. Matt hosts yoga and fitness retreats in his free time and buys all his food from an organic farm in the jungle of Costa Rica where he lives. He is a shareholder of the Green Bay Packers.