Outrage Marketing: An Ugly New Era of Social Marketing

Jan 2018: I have been somewhat of an anti-blogger through my blogging career, a troll of sorts, where I often set to contest the cliques, cultures and opportunism which tend to dominate the blogging world (or just for the sheer sake of trolling). I also enjoyed the somewhat comical trolling of the vegan community by a previous White Moose Cafe outrage marketing campaign because it was overall good banter (or craic as they say in Ireland) and no one individual was being targeted or hurt.

But the recent outrage marketing attack on a vlogger was very different when the owner of the White Moose Cafe shared a private business email from a media contact, and used it to shame and smear the name of a young female blogger and bloggers in general. It was a targeted and personal attack, directed to incite hatred (and even death threats) with lies, bullying and mistruths. With the sole purpose to promote the White Moose Cafes business. A trolling campaign and shock advertising strategy which apparently netted them over £4mil in free publicity.

There was a lot of irony in all this is as well as he was pitting the vlogger against the hard-working folk of the hospitality industry, and pretending like his business degree or whatever schooling was like working down the coal mines (the guy owns a Dublin hotel for Christ sake). He then whipped up a shit show around it.

But it was undoubtedly a targeted attack, an easy target, a 22-year-old female, “young”, “naive”, “spoilt”, “entitled”, “millennial” and the perfect prey for outrage. It’s your typical schoolyard bully stuff. He then jumped on the current trend of hatred towards vlogger Logan Paul (who vlogged a shock campaign from suicide forest in Japan) along with just the usual contempt for the spoilt and privileged influencer culture of today.

Sponsored Travel

I am a bit late to this conversation, having just completed a week-long road trip through the snow-bleached highlands of Scotland. But I also have better things to do with my time. Anyway, the last week we have been driving long distances in risky amber weather warnings, to photograph, video, and ultimately share our experiences in the region (as video above). All of course paid for from my own pocket because I love doing what I do.

But I am in no way above pitching collaborative opportunities to hotels (or blagging freebies as many will say) and it is one of the very few perks I take advantage of in blogging. Given I don’t really monetize my content, media or blog. But I do still cringe with every hotel pitch, hanging over the send button, because it does feel a bit demeaning. I don’t like doing it. But ultimately collaborations between hotels and bloggers should be mutually beneficial, given the right match in partnership, along with a whole bunch of other reasons.

At the same time, it is not something I do often when travelling, as I don’t want to waste my time photographing, videoing, writing, editing, and publishing this type of material when out on my travels. Not to forget dealing with PR people, the hotel inspection, and itineraries that often occupy the entire duration of your stay. As I really don’t see hosted stays as being worth the hassle most of the time when I could easily just pay 40 quid for some basic digs and lots of time to enjoy my destination.

Therefore, when I do approach hotels, it will only be for hotels that offer unique experiences, like fantastic views, or maybe a boutique design, and just something different. I then set aside a day or so for coverage and share the hotel as ‘the destination’. After publishing a piece on the hotel I would then link them in with articles and destination guides in the area. Something that creates long-term traffic and potentially income from affiliate bookings.

Hotel Collaborations

I had once considered pitching to Dublin hotels during our recent Christmas, but ultimately the hassle wasn’t worth it, as we had no real need for a fancy bed for the night. And I have pitched to a hotel in Northern Ireland before when it had fit well with content we were creating along the Causeway Coast Route (as well as my own unhealthy obsession with whisky). So this was around 2 years ago, pitching for an offseason stay, and I received in response “we are currently inundated with requests for complimentary rooms for travel writers such as yourselves” and they no longer had the marketing budget to accept more of us bloggers.

Unsurprisingly, hotel pitches are not something new to the industry, travel bloggers and influencers have been doing similar for years, from brats to baby boomers, the world over. Where many just use a copy-and-paste template, with their ‘press kit’ attached, addressed to the hotel themselves. “Hi White Moose Cafe”. But direct media contacts have been increasingly harder to find these days, partly due to the endless inundation of pitches by influencers, so it is better now to approach hotels through social media to be forwarded to press relations etc… And again it just adds up to more work and hassle for a free bed.

Blogging is a Business

At the same time, us bloggers and influencers also receive a similar inundation from travel representatives, hotels, destination marketers, tour companies, who ask for similar collaborations. Although they rarely offer any pay, or incentive really, other than potential “freebies”. For example, we were once pitched to review an entire portfolio of luxury hotels (8 plus properties) through Thailand and Vietnam including free flights, accommodation, and top notch food. But we refused given it didn’t fit our brand and we prefer to plan our own travels.

From the other side we are continuously inundated with pitches about web-designers, SEO specialists, guest posts, sponsored content, media and fam trips, and there’s just a litter of nonsense in our mailboxes. And these are all just part of online media and tourism these days. So if businesses can approach bloggers and influencers with offers of “freebies”, to collaborate, then why is it wrong for bloggers to do the same?

The Art of Trolling

Anyway, going back to the owner of the White Moose Cafe, who appears to not know his own business, but obviously knows digital media and the art of outrage marketing and trolling (his original post). But are employees really paid by how many beds they make, or how many breakfasts they serve. I honestly don’t know. But to me this is just strange from the get-go.

Otherwise, in pretty much every collaboration I have been part of, we have always been sponsored/paid for by the marketing department through a marketing budget. Where we are treated no different from any other guest in the hotel. Yet, given our complimentary stay, I was always more inclined to tip the staff and workers, so those hard-working folk the White Moose Cafe claimed to be cheated, were, in fact, better off.

I’m fairly sure the White Moose fella knew this as well. And, as with the art of any troll, there was a lot of misrepresentation in the argument used to fuel an outrage campaign. I can almost guarantee that the hotel receives similar pitches on a weekly basis as well, as it’s doesn’t appear to be below the sights of even the “backpacking” blogger. Unless I’m missing something. And that is why this marketing stunt is pretty much guaranteed to be thought out, and a targeted attack. Although she did ask for a 5-night stay… wtf.

The Basics of Digital Media

I know I have been citing blogging here rather than vlogging (I’ve never watched a vlog in my life). But I feel all media should be treated the same given we each have our own influence, audience, and opportunities to offer. And many factors should be considered in each pitch. But there really is not much difference between traditional media and digital media, whether it’s viewers of a vlog or a TV channel, or the readers of a blog or the local rag. They even use similar marketing mediums with competitions, free stay giveaways, sponsored content and advertising. And I really fail to see the difference.

Otherwise this girl runs her blog as a business, and (if she even makes a taxable income) she will be paying taxes on this so-called “freebie” at the value of the service. So she will in fact be paying to promote someone else’s business. Which just isn’t very savvy when it comes to bottom line business. But these opportunities admittedly give bloggers/influencers the opportunity as well to create content, and to build a portfolio and it’s a bit like work experience. Where ideally they will one day be able to charge hotels for the privilege. As I have at times. (Although she did ask for a 5 night stay… wtf).

At the same time, I don’t see people calling out local media or businesses for offers of advertising, or paid promotion, off the blood, sweat and tears of the hard-working folk of this land. And it is obvious that the guy is a stone-cold troll. And while I do like to troll myself at times, and indulge occasionally outrage marketing, I would never resort to personal attacks, inciting hatred, for the sole purpose of promoting a business. It’s about as low as you can go in marketing, tourism, hospitality. And in life in general. As far as chivalry goes us lads would never hit a girl, but it seems to be okay to terrorise them these days, and to drag them through the mud. Personally I’d rather take a good gubbing.

A Reality for Influencers

So, in reality, he is not some working-class hero taking on the spoilt millennial brats (ironically he is a millennial). He’s not the straight-shooting Irish rapscallion out to defend the hard done by local businesses. He’s little more than a conniving internet troll coordinating and unnecessarily attacking trending cultural peeves. In this case a vulnerable girl. To promote his own business and name.

But this is the reality of social media these days. Where anyone in the public eye can expect to be harassed by anybody and everybody. And it’s just an ugly time to be involved in it all. The same goes for the owner of the White Moose Cafe, whose narcissistic and egotistical traits are no different from the people that he targets. So if you choose to be in the spotlight, then you really have to accept what comes with. And this is also why I always ignore social media in marketing in favour of blogging and SEO. It’s just much quieter here in the background.

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