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Awesome example of controversial viral marketing

One thing I learned after participating in several internet marketing forums is that you simply can’t please everyone regardless of how politically correct or polite you try to be — some people just want to be angry and pissed for the sake of being angry and pissed.  If you help them out (for free giving them your own time), some will b@tch and moan because you didn’t help them even more.

And the funny part is that the more you try to conform to everyone else, the more you’ll just blend in and not stand out.  That’s why it’s not always a bad idea to stand out and create a little controversy every now and then.

Recently, one such site did just that.  If you’re a racist, bigot, or prejudice, you’ve probably heard of t-shirt hell — a cool t-shirt site selling t-shirts that more often than not cross a few lines (but sure are hilarious).  Now, before you get your panties in a knot, the site doesn’t just pick on any particular group — they’re equally prejudice and racist towards everyone.  :)

But here’s what they did…  A few weeks ago, the owner of the site announced that he was shutting down the site in a few weeks.  He said that they were closing and not selling out or anything like that, despite how they could easily sell it to a corporate entity for millions.  He went on to talk about how he was sick of all the haters against him and his shirts and how everyone just needs to get a sense of humor, so to “stick it to them,” he was closing his doors forever.

Then when the day came to close, there was an announcement that it was all just a joke and that he’d never close because of some humorless people trying to shut him down (another “in your face” statement).

Here’s the cool part.  The controversy that his “closing announcement” made got around the internet on several blogs (both for the site and against it), but it generated them a TON of sales.  If I read it right, it went from selling 3,000 t-shirts a week to over 100,000 t-shirts in those few weeks time.

Even the bloggers talking crap about the site helped him generate more revenue, which is an important lesson to learn.

Any type of news or publicity for your site is better than no news or publicity.

If he was just like all the other sites, trying to conform to what everyone thought was normal and right, he’d probably be going out of business for real.

Now, I’m not saying that you need to be some obnoxious freak to generate sales, but sometimes you do need to go against the rest of the crowd and not be so worried about not doing what everyone else is doing.

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4 Responses to “Awesome example of controversial viral marketing”

  1. The Net Fool Says:

    I get really annoyed when people pretend to close shop just to increase traffic… it’s something that ISN’T a new idea, but works regardless. I don’t know.. it just doesn’t seem right to milk your clients by lying to them. Something about that business practice is less than legal.

  2. Geoff Says:

    I’d agree that it’s not exactly the most ethical of things to do, but if you look at the site, 99% of what they do is crossing a lot of lines.

    It’s definitely not a new idea — the majority of marketing methods out there aren’t new. In fact, many of the latest and greatest guru guides out there are just re-hashing the same old stuff in marketing textbooks from the 1980’s.

    But the fact that he wasn’t afraid to be a bit controversial paid off for him. I think too many people try to conform to everyone else instead of doing what they really want to do or say, even though that’s not always the most profitable way of thinking.

    Very few people go anywhere being normal or following the rest of the herd.

  3. Will Says:

    @The Net Fool, it wasn’t like he said, “We’re going to go out of business unless you buy t-shirts! Please help us!” All he said was that he was closing, and that led to sales. You would have a much stronger case if he had actually begged for money in order to save the site. But he actually did the complete opposite; he said he could sell the site for millions (not sure if that was actually true at the time–it probably is now) but instead was choosing to close it down. His mischief was honorable and grand.

  4. Sam Freedoms Internet Marketing Controversy Blog Says:

    @Netfool - that wasn’t an example of “milking clients” by lying to them. It was an example of generating new clients by lying to idiots and story-hungry bloggers. I doubt the controversial marketer had 100,000 t-shirts worth of clients to milk so, while I don’t consider lying to be “genius”, I do take note that, on a survival level, repeating what works, sure as hell, is a really good idea. ;)

    Geoff, good reportage, buddy… and hang in there. You can make money online. Cynicism is your friend, to a point; then it can become your jailer.

    Best wishes,
    Sam Freedom
    controversial marketing

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