Embrace the hate: why apathy is marketing kryptonite

Good marketing doesn’t always mean getting people to like you, argues MeetTheBoss TV’s Ben Thompson.
Sometimes, taking a polarising stance can work just as well.

Customer attention spans are shrinking. Research indicates that consumers are exposed to around 5000 marketing messages each day, and getting your brand noticed is increasingly challenging.

But getting noticed doesn’t necessarily mean people have to like you.

Take Marmite, for example: you either love it or hate it, as the slogan goes. There’s no sitting on the fence with something as distinctive tasting as Marmite. It elicits strong feelings, good and bad. People are passionate about it, and Marmite embraces this polarity as part of its brand identity. I can’t stand the stuff, but I do enjoy the banter over its dubious merits with my Marmite-loving friends.

Apathy, on the other hand, is like marketing kryptonite. How can people get excited about something they don’t care about? At least if people are engaged enough to tell the world what they don’t like about your product, service or company, they’re interacting with your brand and providing you with the opportunity to change their minds, or to tell your side of the story, or even to allow other advocates to leap to your defence. If nothing else, it gets people talking.

Taking a ‘love it or hate it’ stance also invites new consumers to try out your offering for themselves, to see what all the fuss is about, and to form their own opinion.

What Marmite has done brilliantly is to recognise that by channelling that polarity between haters and fans and playing upon the conflict, it actually gets closer to engaging everyone in conversations about its brand – more so than it ever would by attempting to appeal to everybody equally.

At a recent event, Randi Zuckerberg (sister of Mark, and former Facebook CMO) told attendees that “Haters are only an inch away from loving you. The challenge lies in harnessing their passion.” And it’s a fair point. Love. Hate. They’re flipsides of the same coin; it’s all about passion.

So is there an opportunity to take a more Marmite approach to marketing in your business?

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