Conversation Marketing: The Conversation is the Thing

Christine Fife

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Creating Positive Conflict

Seasoned PR professionals know that conflict makes good news. When at least 2 groups of people have opposing views about something a news-worthy story emerges. Novelists can also attest to this. Books make the best seller lists if they have a compelling conflict–man vs. man, man vs. beast/nature, man vs. himself–that the main character is able to overcome. In today’s noisy, overly-advertised at world, companies want press coverage or word-of-mouth momentum more than ever and creating a conflict is one way of doing that.

The problem with this tactical approach, however, is that conflict is inherently negative and if you aren’t careful the conflict can backfire on you, turning your customers off. So how do you create positive conflict to attract audience attention while making your company/product the hero who successfully overcomes the conflict?

Consider these ideas for creating positive conflict:

  1. Pit Your Audience Against Itself with Humor: My favorite recent campaign is from Cottonelle Toilet Paper. Their “Over or Under” controversy campaign challenged their audience (their customers and all toilet paper users) to choose up sides on which direction the roll should be set on the holder. It was funny because many people really do have a strong preference even though it is such a mundane detail. The company’s new campaign for “Respect the Roll” is equally as clever by using toilet paper consumers who believe the toilet paper roll is such worthy item that they are chastising other toilet paper users who don’t adorn their roll in a decorative cover.
    How another product category could use this concept: A toothpaste producer could go along this line by doing a campaign about leaving the toothpaste cap off the tube, pitting couples or roommates against one another and a superhero solving the issue by replacing their tube of toothpaste with a new flip cap instead of a twist cap tube.
  2. Honestly Address Your Flaws: Domino’s Pizza did this brilliantly with their Pizza Turnaround campaign. They honestly addressed the issues that people thought their pizza tasted terrible and used that to launch a new recipe for their pizza that received favorable reviews. They came right out and said they were sorry their pizza was bad and they’re listening.
  3. Rally for a Cause: Many companies and organizations have done this very successfully. In 2009, the National Heart Lung & Blood Institute’s Red Dress PR campaign helped generate awareness of the number 1 killer of women, heart disease, by persuading celebrities, politicians and business women in America to wear red dresses. It became a social phenomenon that built a national movement highlighting female heart health.
    Tide laundry detergent took on nature as their foe with their Loads of Hope campaign to help victims of Hurricane Katrina. by sending trucks with laundry facilities into neighborhoods who needed help cleaning up their lives, Tide helped people tell the natural disaster that it wouldn’t keep people down. The company has kept the campaign alive by helping people of other natural disasters.

Consider your products/services and what your company stands for. Somewhere in there you’ll find a positive conflict waiting to get out.

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More Stories By Christine Fife

As I drove off to college I never would have guessed I would end up here! But it’s been a fantastic journey. My career has been richly diverse giving me an advantage over marketers who are siloed into niche positions. I strive to be a true Renaissance person—I love to learn about everything and trying new things comes naturally. My career has been no different; I’ve successfully launched enterprise software and medical device development startups, improved communications processes for the regulatory department of a major financial exchange, increased client business and product development for several international exchange program companies and founded an international educational non-profit organization. My master’s degree in Integrated Marketing from Golden Gate University gave me a broad understanding of traditional marketing best-practices, but my BA in theater gave me the skills to understand how people communicate with one another and the importance of promoting a brand in a voice that is right for the audience.