Standing Out from the Crowd: When Disruptive Content is a Calculated Risk Worth Taking

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Gemma Elgar

Digital Content Specialist

Great content is all about differentiating your brand from your competitors – speaking to your audience in a way they understand while still sounding uniquely ‘you’.

Some brands go further than others in standing out from the crowd, with disruptive content strategies aimed at increasing dialogue and brand awareness on social channels.

There’s a general fear that voicing strong opinions online as a brand will lose you whichever half of your audience doesn’t agree with you, but this isn’t the case. According to Kantar, 61% of Gen Z consumers claim to like brands that have a point-of-view and stand for something.

Steph Williams, Content Manager at Liberty, agrees. She said:

“Realistically, you may lose a small portion of your audience if they disagree with you. However, those who agree with your takes will have a stronger sense of brand loyalty after bonding over your beliefs.

You may well also find that there are people who disagree with, or are indifferent to your opinion, but who respect the fact that you’re voicing one at all.”

Something to Believe In

According to a report by Sprout social, people are more likely to interact with something they agree with than something they don’t. For example, a higher percentage of consumers were likely to show brand loyalty in times of agreement than will boycott in times of disagreement.

In fact, making your stance known as a brand when it comes to political or financial causes is being increasingly seen as crucial once you’ve established a large platform. In the same Sprout social study, 66% of respondents believed that brands should take a stand on political and social issues, and felt that social media was the best place to do so.

Speaking up publicly like this and standing for something might seem daunting, but it’s effective. It doesn’t always need to be political or societal, but it should appeal to the values of your audience and reflect who you want to be as a brand.   Below, we’ve outlined how some brands have successfully created a name for themselves by taking a risk with their content.


Aldi took a gamble with an informal, often provocative approach to social media, but it’s one that’s paid off.

Embodying a comedic yet approachable persona, this undeniably risky tongue-in-cheek attitude really made waves on social media, particularly when interacting with audiences and competitors.

Then there was #freecuthbert – one of the most dramatic social media scandals of the last 10 years.

After being taken to court by M&S for allegedly copying its Colin the Caterpillar cake, Aldi used its social channels to build up a loyal following in support of its own, Cuthbert. By starting this public fight, Aldi subtly piggy-backed off the marketing success of M&S’ Colin, knowing that M&S probably wouldn’t stake their carefully constructed reputation by responding.

This gave Aldi the upper hand in winning over its audience in the debate. Then, when the case eventually settled, Aldi announced the return of Cuthbert outside M&S stores just to rub it in – and their followers loved it. I’m also sure M&S were more than happy to soak up the additional publicity.

Followers responded with comments like, ‘whoever is in charge of social media and PR at Aldi deserves a raise’, and ‘Bigger comeback than any of Cher’s!’.

Aldi are like the loveable rebel of the corporate social media world. Unafraid to target rivals publicly, its self-defensiveness and refusal to back down earns it a lot of visibility on social channels, getting exposure to another brand’s audience, and setting itself apart in a crowded market.

Ultimately, Aldi has constructed its persona as the underdog of the supermarkets, having risen from its old reputation of poor quality to instead be seen as just as good as the rest, with lower prices and an endearing attitude.

Measuring When Provocative Content Works

Provocative content done right really works – driving social engagement, positive sentiment, and brand visibility as well as the SEO benefits of getting featured in a big PR story. The #freecuthbert debacle, for example, was acknowledged across social media and news outlets on a far larger scale than a few Twitter tags.

Then there are the softer, less-quantifiable business benefits from establishing a distinctive brand voice: consumers keep a brand at the front of their minds, increase affinity, and speak about them to friends. Ultimately, they buy more frequently. Attributing that to a distinctive brand voice is hard, but that’s not to say the link doesn’t exist.  


Another brand that has formulated a different, but equally successful persona, is Ryanair.

Ryanair’s reputation as an airline is, it’s fair to say, pretty mixed. In recent times though, it’s aggressively focused on disruptive social content to help them stay front of mind for the right reasons.

The brand strikes the balance brilliantly between risky humour and genuine customer service (which is provided via direct message so as not to disrupt the social stream) and is unafraid to poke fun at itself.

Ultimately, Ryanair knows who it is, and knows how the brand is seen by its audience, so has found a way to use this to its advantage.

The tweet above even had one follower reply with, ‘My favourite comedy account with a small side hustle in aviation’.

Credibility holds the most value of any content on social media, and that’s something that this brand clearly understands, and makes the most of. Instead of being talked down on by peers, Ryanair flips the narrative to make fun of more successful airlines while acknowledging its own flaws, all with an authentic voice that brings the account out on top.

This was a huge risk on Ryanair’s part. There was a likelihood that it could backfire and result in more abuse directed the brand’s way. Instead, however, it’s giving Ryanair a fresh perspective and bucketloads of visibility.


Dbrand is a controversial one when it comes to its content and tone of voice. The brand takes the informal voice of Ryanair and takes it a few steps further, making fun not of itself but of its own audience.

Generally, for dbrand’s products and site copy, this tone works in the brand’s favour. The candid, nonchalant language that dbrand chooses for its copy comes across with the marketing equivalent of bad-boy charm.

The company captions its digital camo phone skin, for example, with the phrase, ‘our latest assault on your wallet’. There is even a product called ‘something’, with features the tag line, ‘It’s better than nothing’.

This kind of slightly mean-spirited branding is particularly risky, and can often provoke audiences in the wrong way. For example, when one dbrand shopper pointed out what he considered to be an unfairly high free shipping threshold, dbrand responded by raising it even higher.

In cases like that of dbrand, its voice can often cross the line and fall into the category of being able to dish it out, but not take it. That being said, it is different, and that makes the brand memorable – and memorability absolutely stands for something.

Even a persona that’s controversial (and maybe even rude) could be better than a bland voice that sees you fly completely under the radar. Whether or not you think dbrand’s strategy is a good one, we’re talking about the brand, aren’t we?

Negotiating the Risk of Disruptive Content

Disruptive content is all about provocation, and it doesn’t have to be negative. Provocation is about sparking a back-and-forth with your audience, and even with other brands. Stimulation from other parties elongates the lifespan of your content and spreads the word about your brand.

As your brand grows, you’ll find the niche of audience that fits you just right, and with that, you can use your social and content channels to turn your brand into a persona of the same demographic. It will be a give-and-take relationship between your brand and customer base until you find a middle ground that solidifies the relationship.

In fact, this will be a large part in deciding whether your brand is right for disruptive content. Reading your audience, as well as having an in-depth understanding of your tone of voice, is crucial to knowing if your brand sits within the niche where disruptive content would be beneficial.

As with anything, risk is navigated through balance. In this case, that balance falls between personality, relevance, and provocation. Finding your brand’s personality will take time, but building it alongside your audience base will make sure that the two work together.

Take risks by experimenting with your voice – see what works, and what doesn’t.

Learn How to Make Good Content with Liberty

Navigating risky content can be daunting, but our content marketing services can help. From site copy to social media and everything in between, at Liberty, we specialise in digital marketing that will help you stand out from the crowd.

Get in touch today to see how we can help you.

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Gemma Elgar

Digital Content Specialist

Gemma completed her BA in English Lit at the University of Birmingham where she did a lot of work with Redbrick, the student newspaper. This started her along the path of content writing as a profession. Her first industry job after graduating was at Liberty as a Junior Content Specialist. Her favourite part of her…

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