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?

Written by Drea Knufken

Currently, I create and execute content- and PR strategies for clients, including thought leadership and messaging. I also ghostwrite and produce press releases, white papers, case studies and other collateral.