top of page
  • Writer's pictureDeJuan Wright

5 Ways to Fuse Shock Value Into Your Startup's Branding Strategy

You’ll never guess what I just saw! Usually, whenever you hear someone utter those seven words—you just know that you’re in store to receive a great story. Not only do we enjoy hearing great stories, we also love sharing them with others as well. 

Besides our most primitive needs (food, water, shelter, reproduction), there is nothing that man longs for more than a great story. 

While a series of elements are required to make a truly great story; one of the most important is the element of surprise. For decades, crime series dramas like: Bones, CSI, Law And Order, and NCIS—have all become huge hits for their respective television networks due to the fact they satisfied their audience’s need for being surprised through story. 

Essentially, your brand is an ongoing story that consists of a series of intentional actions—carried out daily in hopes of appealing to a specific audience. A great way to successfully appeal to your brand’s target audience is by implementing the element of surprise into your branding strategy. In other words—by utilizing shock value. 

1. A shocking brand name 

If there were ever a quote that should be framed on a wall in a conference room at every marketing firm in the world that has one—it should be this from the father of advertising, the late David Ogilvy, “There are no dull products, only dull writers.” 

Now, whether or not you agree with Mr. Ogilvy that there are no dull products—if there ever were a dull product to exist—it would probably be sparkling water. 

Nonetheless, great branding tactics like having a shocking brand name could even make a product like sparkling water seem interesting and exciting to consumers.

Case in point, you’re throwing a barbeque at your home and would be inviting your closest friends and family members. To supply refreshments for your guests, you decide to make a run to your local Walmart to pick up the necessary items that’ll help make your barbecue one that they’ll all remember. 

Walking down the beverage aisle of the store, you recall that many of your guests enjoy sparkling water. So you decide to grab a couple cases of it. 

While looking on the store’s shelves, you see brand names like: Bubly, La Croix, and Sparkling Ice. Then suddenly, you spot a name that's so crazy for a sparkling water brand—it demands your undivided attention, Liquid Death. At the lower bottom in front of the can of Liquid Death, you also see the words, Murder Your Thirst, written in plain sight.

Knowing that it would also shock your guests as much as it shocked you and would be a great conversation starter, you decide to purchase two cases of Liquid Death for your barbeque. 

In reality, scenarios similar to the one just mentioned is a big reason why Liquid Death is now a billion-dollar beverage brand. Like Liquid Death, your brand could also successfully stand out from the crowd by having a shocking name. 

Simply study the names of other brand’s in your brand’s category. Then, come up with a name that is so abnormal, so kooky, yet so remarkable—people won’t have a choice but to stop and to pay attention to it—and tell others about it as well.

2. Social media posts 

In his bestselling book, Purple Cow, author Seth Godin writes, “Does everyone like Hooters? No way. That’s part of what makes it remarkable. If everyone liked it—it would be boring.” Needless to say, one of the last words that you’d want your brand to be associated with is boring.

Purple Cow is one of the most impactful marketing books of all time because it’s all about emphasizing that brands should focus on standing out from the crowd. Not blending in. But in order to stand out—your brand must disregard the yearning of being liked by everyone.

An effective way to do that is through shocking social media posts.

Like a purple cow in a pasture, your brand could surprise those who come across it and stand out from all others in its category by making funny, hip, and provocative posts from its social media accounts that will resonate with its audience in a way that they’ll be pleasantly surprised that they came across it on their timeline. 

3. Edgy advertisements 

Whether you are a marketing professional or not, I’m sure that you’d agree—the anticipation for advertisements aired during the Super Bowl is now equivalent to that of the outcome of the big game itself. 

And which ads do viewers talk about most? Those that are most the most funny, and definitely—those that are most edgy.

Let’s be clear, your startup’s ads don’t have to be edgy in a way that isn’t congruent with your brand’s values. They just need to be edgy in a way that is unusual and exciting. 

4. An astonishing brand logo

Ask anyone who has helped build a brand that has one and they’ll certainly attest, there’s nothing quite like having an unfair advantage over your competitors in the market.

An underrated, yet very effective attention-grabbing tool that could help give your brand an unfair advantage is having a shocking brand logo. 

Take the iconic Death Row records logo for example. The logo consists of a man with a hood over his face, strapped down to what appears to be an electric chair. Quite a startling image for a logo, right? But it’s that very startling factor that has helped the Death Row records logo become one of the most recognized brand logos—not just in hip-hop—but throughout all industries.

You could also use the power of a shocking brand logo to your brand’s benefit by formulating a logo for your brand that is so preposterous—people will be forced to notice it.

5. Distinctive packaging 

This is so important that it must be reiterated, humans love great stories! In fact, we’re downright addicted to them. And what’s more, not only do we love being on the receiving end of great stories, we love sharing them with others as well.

Your job is to ensure that your startup shares great stories with its audience. It’s also your job to ensure that you provide your startup’s audience opportunities in which they'd feel compelled to share great stories about your brand with their social circle. 

A cool way to do that is by packaging your products in a unique and distinctive way that’ll render your audience inclined to share a, You’ll never believe what I just saw! Story with others. 

Notable packaging like:

- Crumbl’s pink cookie box. 

- L’eggs’ egg shaped pantyhose container. 

- Magnum’s gold condom wrapper.

Have all helped their respective brands separate their products from the pack by being shockingly different from what consumers were accustomed to. They also provided consumers an opportunity to tell others a great story about their brand and their products—which is surely an unfair advantage. 

Let’s shock your audience! 

Need further help devising a branding strategy that will continuously shock your startup’s audience—in a pleasant way? We’d absolutely love to help you with that by creating a strategy for your startup that would give your target customers an opportunity to tell their friends and family a great story about their experience with your brand.

To get started, email us today and schedule a call for your startup to become a Decryption client so that together—we can shock the world. 


bottom of page