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NAIRA MARLEY’s CASE: How To Tactfully Capitalize On Controversy To Promote Your Brand Online

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The first question I want you to ask yourself is can controversy really influence my brand online?

Brand Business Concept. Hand with marker writing.

There are specific ways to build a brand online and that includes either building a credible reputation or using controversy to gain more following and leave your footprints in the minds of the audience.

I am writing this article with a special focus on the controversial Nigerian musician, Azeez Fashola, popularly known by his fans and admirers as ‘’Naira Marley.’’ His arrest by Nigeria’s anti-graft agency, EFCC, seems to be the fire that lighted up his career and gained him more following among gullible Nigerians, especially the illiterate, semi-illiterate and even the most educated ones.

These educated ones saw him as a representation of the battered and neglected youths who have suffered for long and will stop at nothing by getting what they want even when it is evident that their actions might hurt their fellow human being.

The fallout from his (Naira Marley) incarceration is the movement he proudly supervises over now, they call themselves the ‘’Marlians.’’ He has come out boldly to support fraud also known as Yahoo Yahoo. Indeed, his followers see anyone that calls out those engage in such practices as enemies and most times threatens them with violence.

But do you know that there is a script behind the rise of Naira Marley and Marlians since last year?

Have you ever sat down and asked yourself, how come it was after he got into trouble with the EFCC that his song became the national anthem on the streets?

I am not telling you to put up controversy in order to promote or sell your brand online, what I am pointing out is that controversy sells in some industry, while it can be the greatest mistake if you try it in other industry.

Brand and Controversy: Naira Marley, Zlatan and some of their friends

Take the music industry, for example, Naira Marley was able to get away with it because whether you like it or not, that is what the industry looks forward to, that is what the press wants, they want fresh news to break to their readers. The show promoters need people like Naira Marley to help sell their show tickets.

But what if it was in other professional industries? Such as Banking, Oil and gas….. I am sure before the concerned authorities would have taken the necessary disciplinary actions against characters like Naira Marley, he would not waste time to throw in the towel.

I could vividly remember when I went for an interview last year in an organization, owned by one of the most popular professors in Nigeria; it was a memorable experience that I will never forget.

It was a two-hour long interview for the role of a Social Media Coordinator, and I was asked what my thought was on using controversy as a means of promoting a brand online. My answer was straight, just like I outlined above, it all depends on the sector you find yourself.

Controversy: Wakanow vs Travelstart

There I was being questioned by two highly intelligent ladies, one of them made reference to when there was a controversy between Wakanow and Travelstart. It was around May 2019, Wakanow fired the first shot, Travelstart did not hesitate to research on their arch-rival, they unleashed mayhem on them.

 All this happened right on the twitter platform, and also initiated the debate if indeed controversy is really good for marketing, promoting or selling a brand.

A microblog had tweeted:

‘’Tweet hi to someone you don’t know’’

Wakanow replied by mentioning Travelstart (another travel agency), the mention alone insinuated that Travelstart is not recognized by Wakanow.

On its part, Travelstart replied with a banger that crushed Wakanow by introducing themselves as the best travel agency in the country, boasting of paying the salaries of their staffs as at when due, having a website that loads timely unlike their counterpart (Wakanow).

That response alone was a big blow to the brand of Wakanow, it also exposes their inadequacies which includes delays of salary payment and a slow website. I am sure Travelstart did their research well before coming up with their response. They surely had insiders in Wakanow who briefed them on the happenings in the company.

Kudos must also be given to the social media handlers of Travelstart, they made sure they find out the faults of their competitor before giving a response. The result of that controversy will be a jump in sales for Travelstart and a decline on the part of Wakanow.

Did you also remember the #BankWars between major commercial banks in Nigeria? Did you notice how the various banks stepped up their online presence with a view to promoting their brands at that time? I have also done some research on my own using the Nigerian Twitter audience and came out with a conclusion that controversy is actually good for brand promotion.

brand

But what I can tell you is that you do not always have to be the one to start the war. Why did I utter such a statement?

Let me answer your question by giving you an assignment, whenever someone, celebrity, organization(s) or a particular issue is trending on twitter, look closely, not everyone tweets on the issue, some just use the hashtags to promote their business and brands. Those who do that get more reach and even conversions as long as that issue is still trending.

When people come online to search for what’s trending, the post of such brands shows up along with those that are actually commenting on the issue. Since emotions appeal to people than any other thing, as a matter of fact, people make most decisions of their lives based on emotions, not logic. They are tempted to patronize such brands, products, and services.

Controversy is good for online visibility, but know when to strike and when to hold back

Omotoyosi Adetayo Adeolu

That is why I said you do not have to light the fire of controversy, but you can increase its reach, be the onlooker or turn yourself to firefighter and quench it. The ball is in your court, choose the direction you want it to go to.

The lessons to learn from all that I have written are that, know when to prevent a war or controversy, start it and also know exactly when to retreat and take a bow. Lastly, have a very clear concept of what you intend to achieve if you are bent on using controversy as a means of promoting your brand online.


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I am Omotoyosi Adetayo Adeolu, I help individuals and brands become visible using content and visual promotion. This process involves creating sellable contents that push your brand to the world. It also includes social media management and digital promotion.

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