Earlier this month, The Harvard Business Review Blog Network ran the blog, Marketing Is Dead. It made me think of a recent blog of mine that revealed the one thing headlines must do. After reading this HBR blog, I feel like I need to add a big old “BUT” to my statement.
Your headline must do exactly one thing – get people to keep reading – BUT, don’t say something ridiculous that will create a negative backlash.
There’s nothing wrong with being controversial and having strong opinions. But saying marketing is dead – a black and white statement with no qualifier – is just factually inaccurate. I won’t waste my time or yours explaining why. Okay, I’ll take 20 seconds…
Marketing is changing. Evolving. So are people’s buying habits and decision-making processes. But to suggest we should tag the toe and shut the door on traditional marketing is just plain ludicrous and close-minded. And I don’t think all those poor suckers who make millions of dollars every year from marketing are losing any sleep because of this author’s declaration.
Now, back to the headline. I can’t say for sure what the author’s motives were, but he obviously wanted to get people to keep reading. I’m sure people did just that. I did.
But when I started reading, I read with the mindset that the blog was total BS, not because I expected to find something of value.
As for the content itself, the author clearly has a big-time crush on social media. I picture Facebook, Pinterest and Google+ logos with hearts drawn around them, kind of like what adolescent girls from my generation did with pictures of the greasers from the movie The Outsiders. If you don’t get that reference, ask someone over 35.
The author advocates “peer influence-based, community-oriented marketing” that social media can provide. Valid concept.
Much of the information in the blog is valuable, but absolutely none of it supports the headline or comes even close to proving it.
This could explain the 450-plus comments in response to the blog. Most of these comments came from people who clearly felt disrespected and insulted. Some questioned his motives and the credibility of his firm. Some admonished Harvard Business Review for running the blog.
This is what’s known as backlash. Not that the headline was offensive or anything, but I’m sure the response would have been much more positive if the blog was titled more accurately. Would it have gotten as much attention with a different headline? Probably not.
But is that kind of attention a business owner wants? Is it worth it?
This kind of approach might work for talk show hosts whose job it is to stir the pot and get a rise out of people (emphasis on “might” because even talk show hosts go too far and create a backlash). For business owners like you and me, the potential damage to our credibility and integrity can be devastating.
When it comes to headlines, be bold and clever. Rattle some cages. Just be smart about it. Like Ralph Macchio said in The Outsiders, “Stay gold, Ponyboy. Stay gold.”
I’m a copywriter, marketing consultant, lifelong New Jersey resident, husband to a beautiful wife and father to two beautiful girls. I love playing with my daughters, a day at the boardwalk, sarcasm, craft beer and grilling. I despise beating around the bush, synchronized swimming, Toddlers & Tiaras and onions. Most people don’t know I used to be a radio DJ and once wrote, produced and voiced a commercial for the TV show 24. Two places I want to visit before I die are Ireland and Norway, the homes of my ancestors. One place I never want to revisit is my first apartment because my creepy landlord, Monty, freaked me out. That just about covers it.