Why “Bad” Sells – All You Need To Know

Categories Articles, Filmspiration

This is a guest post by Shenee Howard – a writer, designer and lover of all things innovative. She is currently in start-up mode, developing her new creative power house, You’ll Look Great. She tweets about fun things she finds around the internet and her ( hopefully) temporary life in the suburbs @sheneeh.
Whenever a new Twilight movie comes out, I die a little inside. Why? Because I know that the movie will make a disgustingly large amount of money, despite the quality of the film. I made an attempt to watch the first movie and couldn’t do it. The filmmakers have also discovered that they don’t even have to promote it. I didn’t even realize the third movie was going to come out before it made 200 million dollars at the box-office. I remember a conversation I had with one of my good friends about the movie. This is what she said: “Oh, it was bad. Not a good movie at all but I’m gonna go see it again.” Am I missing something? And T.V? Jersey Shore, anyone? Every time I turn around, an amazing show in in danger of being canceled while a bad reality show is being picked up for a 15th season.

Now lets apply this concept of “Bad” to the creative world. Bad concepts are all over the advertising and marketing world. Ever watch a series of bad commercials that make no sense? That is a bad idea that somehow sells. How about a god-awful web design from a very popular brand? ( Ahem , Urban Outfitters) Another “bad” sell. There is a very specific reasons why “Bad” sells and you can use their formula to make your great stuff sell too.

Appeal to guilty pleasures

This is the biggest weapon in the arsenal of “badness.” We all like to think that we only watch 87% and up movies on the Tomatometers but that just isn’t the case. People have their guilty pleasures and a lot of the times, bad movies use those guilty pleasures as a selling point. For example, the Jackass phenomenon. For some reason, violence is always funny. We won’t outwardly say it’s true but It always has been. In Jackass , you have the unique opportunity to watch people seriously hurt themselves for your enjoyment. It hits that guilty pleasure sweet spot and not in a subtle way. That guarantee — that people will hurt themselves — is very seductive for audiences.
What is the guilty pleasure of the design world? Interactivity. Instant gratification. Think of ways you can make your website even more interactive. Maybe you can add a simple game to your site.

Know your audience and target them with no shame

Those Twilight filmmakers are very clever. They know their target audience too well. Everything is done with their audience in mind. Their decision to make sure just about every guy in the movie is wearing close to nothing is conscious one. The concept of the series is in itself is fan girl friendly. Shy girl with minimal social-skills ( and I would argue, personality) gets fought over by two hot guys? One of which is a vampire and the other, a werewolf? Come on. You wish you thought of it. As long as they keep making movies with the same characters, their audience will stay faithful. There is no way one of these girls would decide not to see the next movie. Built in audience.
Targeting a specific audience with a web design is pretty easy. Think of all of the really beautifully designed “girly” websites? How about the super minimal websites that attract disciples of the minimalist movement? Whenever you create a web design, you are catering to an audience. Sometimes your audience is very general but other times it isn’t. When you are creating a design, make it a conscious decision. Who are you designing for?

Add to existing content

This happens most frequently with books and movies. When a movie turns out to be a success, talk of a sequel always follows. Studios have realized that if people come out in huge numbers the first time, they will always come back for more. These sequels are often rushed into production in an effort to capitalize on the hype and a lot of the times, it shows. Despite the quality, these movies always do well. Why should they care how good the movies are? The audience doesn’t seem to mind.
This is a tricky one. I wouldn’t advise anyone to add bad content to something that exists already. For designers, this means adding to a conversation or a movement with your own point of view. For example, designing blog entries. How can you design blog entries with your own twist? You will get increased traffic because you are making an attempt at something that people are already interested in but do it with flair. Please don’t be the Spider-man 3 of well-designed blog posts, OK?

Get behind a Star

Sometimes people pay for the director or the big star behind the film. We create relationships with big Hollywood stars and make efforts to support them when we can. Robert Downy Jr. has this effect on every movie is is a part of lately. He has become a trusted face for entertainment and wit. Does he always get it right? At some point, it isn’t relevant. People love him. M. Night Shyamalan had this same effect. Everyone loved The Sixth Sense. As a result, we came back for more. It became obvious, however, that he might not be a reliable source for good movies. Steven Spielberg, James Cameron and Micheal Bay have similar followings with varying levels of success.
We have our share of rock stars in design. Unlike other industries, hype in the design world is usually deserved and the result of hard work and hustle. Publications make a point of creating informative and influential content that genuinely contributes to the conversation. Guest post at a mainstream design blog or pitch to one of the big print publications. You’ll get lots of exposure for all the right reasons.

Use Sex Appeal

Sell sex. Do I even have to explain this one? Anything inappropriate, offensive and/or in bad taste does well for some reason. Sexy people do well without doing much. The examples are numerous and oh, so obvious.
Can your website be sexy? Absolutely. I’m not talking about putting bare chests and naked chicks on your website. It’s no secret that design types use sites like fffound and weheartit as a source for visual inspiration. Design round-ups are still some of the more popular types of entries for blogs. Any designer will have a folder full of visual goodness for future use. Typography is known for being sexy. Curved lines and elegant typefaces? Hits the pleasure center.

There are examples of great movies, books and TV shows that enjoy the same amount of success but it isn’t as common anymore. Some questions to leave you with:
What are some of your favorite “bad” things? Mine? The show Wipeout. So bad, so good. What are some of examples of cases where your existing love of an actor/actress/director is used to promote bad product? I’m gonna go RDJ here. Iron Man 2. Bah. What are some droll-worthy sexy websites? Share the love!

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Shenee is a writer, designer, photographer and pop culture curator. She recently founded You'll Look Great. She tweets. Mostly about writing, music and 90's kids movies @sheneeh. She also blogs.