Many marketers believe that the web is a level playing field for everyone, a place where every marketer can exercise his or her freedom to promote a brand, product or service. But just like democracy, freedom can be taken the wrong way, which can result in controversial marketing campaigns.

Nonetheless, in the online world, it is a gamble worth playing. Controversial online marketing campaigns can sometimes work or not, but one thing is for sure, it is not for everyone.


Here are some controversial marketing tactics that may or may not work for you:

Fake Product Reviews

Just like with any online shopper, checking out reviews is one of the most important things when shopping online. The problem is, product reviews aren’t as trustworthy as before. This controversial marketing practice has left consumers doubting if consumer reviews are actually true or not.

The fact is, there are writers who are paid to write fake reviews. They are only meant to get the visitor to click through on an affiliate link.

Starting Trouble

Picking a fight with a competitor is a controversial online marketing practice. For one, it may show guts and confidence on your part. But on the other hand, you might just look like a war freak, which will be a turn off for your audience.

The truth is, controversy may get you a website traffic spike temporarily and can get your name out there, but this possibly isn’t the right kind of traffic.

Giving Away Free Stuff

Giving away freebies has been a common marketing technique. It only becomes controversial when the free stuff has nothing to do with your brand.

Putting together a range of unrelated bonuses has become the standard nowadays, unfortunately. Everything just to convince the visitors to click the main call to action button.

Invisible or Almost Invisible Text on Website

Every website owner is racking their brains when it comes to search engine optimization. They want to get as many keywords in there as possible without being indexed as a spam site.

So, what other website owners do is they use tiny text or invisible text (text color same as background) on the page to hide keywords. This may work if you don’t get too greedy. But to be on the safe side, don’t do it.

Making Them Do Something First

This is an annoying practice, but it also works. Take this as an example. A company regularly emails you for the latest job openings they have.

But before you can apply, you have to make a basic website where you post your portfolio and highlight your qualifications, experience, etc.

You go to the site only to learn that you must pay to get your website done. Out of the need to land a job, some people will actually pay and make their websites. For the others, they can see through the trick.


Cloaking is when the website owner shows optimized pages to search engine crawlers, but gives unoptimized pages to the visitors. Cloaking is said to help a page have a higher rank, but nowadays, Google and other major search engines will blacklist a site once it is caught cloaking. The choice is yours.

“Limited” Information

Let’s face it. The web is a huge treasure trove of information. So, implying to your audience that you are a source of “limited” information is quite ridiculous. This practice follows the “limited edition” concept. If it’s limited, people want to get their hands on it. It can work, but be careful, this plan can backfire.

Cutthroat Advertising

In a cutthroat world, marketers believe that they have to use cutthroat techniques too. Burger King launched one of their most clever ad campaigns in Asia. They wanted to get some market share from McDonald’s with regard to their burger sales.

Burger King’s best marketing idea was to use Ronald McDonald. They put Burger King shirts on his statues and even put his footprints outside the Burger King stores. It was harsh, but it definitely worked.

While good marketing techniques are not hard to find, controversial marketing techniques prove to be a high-risk high-gain route for marketers. What about you, what path will you take?

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