Shock Tactics: Will Your Event Make A Bang Or A Whisper?


What makes Lady Gaga the most followed person on Twitter? It’s not because of her talent… it’s because of her publicity team’s talents.

Right now as we speak, an agency somewhere is burning holes in their pockets, spending countless dirhams to garner enough buzz for their event. The only problem is simple mathematics: there are thousands of events, yet the fan only has two eyes and two ears. You could execute the best event on earth but if we don’t see it, it never happened.

Suppose you’re organizing a concert. You’ll obviously focus on rehearsing the songs and perfecting the voices, right? Wrong. The last thing the audience will remember is the actual songs. Think bigger, higher, smarter: how will your performers make an unforgettable entrance? How will your choreography transform the audience from spectators to co-participants?

Everybody remembers the controversial “meat dress” which Lady Gaga wore to the Grammies. But ask them who won the actual Grammies themselves, and they give you blank stares. Her stunts, costumes and other “shock tactics” might cost her almost a million dirhams each, but they earn her millions more and propel her to the highest echelons of popular music, so she must be doing something right.

Ensure your shock tactics are somehow linked to the brand’s personality. Eminem’s “brand personality” is associated with controversy and confrontation. Therefore at the Oscar ceremony he got into a heated confrontation with an actor who had swung from the ceiling and landed on him. It wasn’t until later that they revealed it wasn’t a real confrontation but a planned one.

But where do we draw the line? A well-known fashion chain rebranded and adopted a name similar to a four-letter expletive. What looked cocky and daring in the nineties now looked embarrassingly outdated in the “noughties”. Thankfully they came to their senses and “re-rebranded”, but not before throwing their reputation and budget down the drain.

The bottom line is that there’s a thin line between “good” shocks and “bad” shocks. Understand your audience’s cultural sensitivities and limits; otherwise instead of setting social media on fire, your event will only “backfire” and burn your reputation. The biggest “shock” should be how successful your event is.