How Anger Helps Businesses (and Politicians) Gain Consumers

I confess, I’m caught up in political fever. The theater of it fascinates me, both among the politicians themselves and the way everyday people react.

Yesterday’s post about Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin got me thinking about anger. In politics, its main purpose is to enhance conviction. Candidates talk a lot to peoples’ softer aspects–emotions, fears, hopes. Something gets triggered by a candidate, and boom, you’re a potential fan, and voter.

What about business? Can a business possibly inspire the same kind of anger, and hence motivation, in a consumer?

When I thought about it more, I realized that yes, anger prompts consumption all the time. Here are a few of the ways I thought of:

Case 1: Using anger to boost reputation.

I’m angry at a design flaw in my iPhone 3G. Say I complain online. Other users identify with me. Someone complains to Apple and gets an excellent response. They post their positive feedback online. Everyone’s happy, and Apple’s reputation among that group of people is boosted.

Case 2: Using guerrilla marketing tactics to anger customers into taking a closer look.

American Apparel has some ads that looked a tad pedophiliac. Upon first glance, seeing models who looked like minors posed in vulnerable, inviting positions angered me. So I looked more closely at American Apparel: what it sold, who ran it, who its audience was. I don’t shop there, but now I’m familiar with the company. Thus, a marketing seed was successfully planted.

Case 3: Inspiring rebellion in a customer to subtly steer them towards your products.

A massive Whole Foods grocery store is located just down the street from me. It’s tempting to shop there, but I’m usually too cheap to walk in. This frustrates me. So I do walk in on occasion, just because I can (walk in, that is, not afford the half wheel of caved Gruyere). Just to spite the expensive store, I look for products with what I perceive to be fair prices, such as those from the store’s generic line. I usually end up buying something. Win for Whole Foods; victory for my spite.

Case 4: Planting marketing seeds in a customer to empower her.

Let’s say I break up with my significant other. Being a woman, the first thing I want to do, after mourning through the sad part of it, is mark my newfound independence with new products or services, such as a haircut and new shoes. I’m angry, I’m motivated, and I head to a salon I’ve seen before whose ads, to me, inspire girl power. I didn’t pay much attention to the ads when I first saw them, but now that they’re in my memory banks, I patronize the salon. The ads paid off. I’m sure men do a similar thing.

Can you think of any other ways that anger could inspire consumption?

  • Anger could be as simple as inciting anger at a competitor’s product. Apple’s anti-PC ads are a tame example: they make users conscious of PC problems and inform them that users could be getting so much more.

    I’m envisioning a Pabst ad that says something about being “the REAL American beer” as an attack on Budweiser’s sellout to In-Bev. This would make many American beerdrinkers angry with Budweiser, driving business to Pabst.

  • I’d would argue having the public (i.e. the consumers) think you’re a certain type of business helps immeasurably. If you’re a green living advocate, you use eco-friendly companies (Google or Fedex). If you’re known as a take no prisoner business, you attract the hardcore business persons (Microsoft during the browser wars). If you’re a mom and pop retiree, and you like an approachable jolly old guy running you’re money, Berkshire Hathaway is for you. Perception is rule #1 for 99% of people who don’t understand the business world.

  • Bob the Chef

    People are mindless state machines. As much as that _angers_ them to hear it, that’s what they are. People behave in such profoundly mindless and stupid ways in their day to day lives, in their thoughts, in their words and in their actions, it really is irritating to those that can be legitimately called human. And worst of all for the aware observer, it’s completely obvious and transparent! Goddamnit!

    Luckily, for those who manage to separate from the herd, it becomes both a source of amusement, as well as a way to exercise power over the drones. Recent cases in point: Bush, and now his protege Obama. The humanoids have a simple system of weaknesses, deficits rooted in both nature and nurture. Manipulating them really is like pressing buttons on a subservient robot waiting for commands. Those apart from the herd know these weaknesses and use them to funnel the masses into a variety of behavioral phenomena as desired. And don’t worry about the so-called “rebellious” ones. Their superficial reaction to certain discomforts is also well understood, and in fact serves as an additional useful, amusing force in the herding of the humanoids.

    Oh, right, what does this all have to do with anything. The means through which said manipulation is accomplished is colloquially called marketing.

    Now I can already imagine that some of you will become dismissive of this post (gooood…), and some of you may feel angered by it (gooood…), while some may feel an ounce of insecurity well up inside you (gooood…). But some of you may feel like you are part of the elite that govern the masses. Hah! Also gooood, because the narcissism of the age is precisely one of weaknesses used to lead you out into the desert naked, stripped of your dignity and your wealth, while providing still a source of amusement. The gods chuckle, and then they laugh.