8.28.2012

Why Controversy Isn't A Bad Thing


When most people think of "controversy", they have a negative connotation of the word. Controversial topics are taboo, and controversy is thought of as something to be avoided. However, people are also attracted to controversy. It makes ordinary things more interesting, and more importantly for businesses, it garners attention and gains exposure. Just like the saying goes, "There is no such thing as bad press" (up to a point, of course).


Controversy doesn't necessarily mean something is offensive; any idea that disrupts the status quo can usually be considered controversial to some degree. There are countless mainstream brands and companies like Facebook and iTunes that could be considered to fall into this category. At Harbortouch, we are well known within the payments industry for this. In 2004, we launched a free credit card terminal program. Prior to this initiative, merchants had to purchase or lease their processing equipment at a cost of hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars. For obvious reasons, our free option caused a lot of push-back in the industry from entrenched competitors who made their money selling the equipment; however, our approach quickly became the industry standard. We shook up the industry again in 2009 with our free cash register program and in 2011 with a free touch-screen point of sale system program. Most people are innately averse to change, so anything that is perceived as out of the ordinary can cause a stir. However, when you try to kowtow to existing norms and accepted practices, that's when products and companies fall into mediocrity and eventually obscurity.

Many companies have taken a calculated risk in leveraging controversy in their favor. Godaddy's controversial Super Bowl commercials were the catalyst that catapulted the company to its place as the largest domain registrar in the world. It's hard to differentiate yourself in a market as innocuous as website domain registrations, but GoDaddy managed to stand out and is now four times the size of its closest competitor.

So what are you waiting for? Push the envelope, stir the pot, and stand out from the crowd.