Why You Should Anger Your Readers – Just a Little Bit

The conventional advice in content marketing is pretty straightforward; make your readers happy.

I guess that makes sense. If you make your readers happy, they’ll be more likely to come to you in the future, not to mention more likely to recommend you to their friends and family members. And happiness is something the world needs more of, so that angle checks out.

But what I’m about to tell you right now is a deviation from that practical—and sensible—advice. Instead of aiming for happiness all the time, you should piss your readers off (just a little bit) to get the best results for your content campaign.

How to Anger Your Readers

What do I mean “piss your readers off”? Surely I don’t mean insulting their families or ridiculing their insecurities.

You’re right. There’s no need to go that far unless your readers are jerks and they have it coming. Instead, you can anger your readers in three highly effective ways:

  • Present something shocking. Your first angle is to present something that’s genuinely shocking, preferably in a negative light. This is the safest of the three issues because it distances you from the anger—your readers won’t be angry with you, they’ll be angry with the fact. For example, you might do some research to prove that fewer people are reading these days—and if you’re an English major like me, that’s both heartbreaking and infuriating to hear.
  • Take a bold stance on a controversial subject. Controversial content sells, plain and simple. Pick a controversial subject—preferably one that directly pertains to your brand or industry—and choose a side to be a part of. Don’t be afraid to polarize your audience (I’ll explain why momentarily).
  • Tell them something they don’t want to hear. Finally, you can be frank with your readers and tell them something they don’t want to hear. I tend to do this frequently, with articles like How You’re Probably Wasting Time in Content Marketing. It may be valuable, but because it’s not pleasant, it will anger some of your audience.

Why are these anger-inducing methods so effective for developing a content marketing campaign?


First, you’re going to differentiate yourself from the competition. All your other competitors are worried about making your shared audience as happy as possible, never treading on ground that might alienate those readers. But where they zig, you’ll be zagging, broaching topics they wouldn’t think to cover and sharing harsh truths they’re too afraid to share. As a result, you’re going to stand out more in the sea of white noise that is modern content marketing, and you’ll attract a bigger readership as a result.

Emotional Memory

Strong emotions are linked to a stronger formation of memories. Yes, the topic is a bit more complex than that, but the basic idea here is that if you’re able to evoke some strong emotional response in your readership, they’ll be more likely to remember your content—and your brand—in the future. Think about your own life, and the dozens of articles you either skim or pass on every day. Can you remember where you read them? Who wrote them? What they said? Of course not. They weren’t significant enough for you to commit to memory. But think back to a post you found online that really made you mad. I bet you can remember everything about it. This principle will help you retain your readership and keep your brand top-of-mind more often.


Anger-inducing posts, especially ones that stir up controversy, tend to be invitations for debate. And as you might have guessed, debate is a good thing for your brand. Some of your users will take issue with what you have to say and leave comments, and as long as the issue’s debatable and visible enough, other users will likely chime in for or against your stance. Eventually, it will probably develop in its own, out of your control, drawing more attention to the post and creating more content in your discussion thread. It’s a good idea to get involved directly here, defending your points and welcoming the debate, to keep yourself in a positive light.


Choosing one side or saying something that people don’t want to hear is going to polarize your audience. This may sound unpleasant at first; after all, you could be turning away a massive portion of your readers. But think of it this way—when you polarize your audience, you’ll be turning some people away, yes, but everyone else who remains is going to become even more invested in your brand as a result. The net gain you stand in reader loyalty will outweigh the loss you suffer in people departing from your brand, as those readers probably weren’t that invested in your brand in the first place.


Finally, you’ll stand to gain significant brand trust among your readers, which is an increasingly important quality in ongoing brand-consumer relationships. Brands who only tell customers what they want to hear are (sometimes only subconsciously) seen as deceitful or manipulative. But a brand that isn’t afraid to tell it like it is will appear more sincere and trustworthy, which translates to higher conversion rates and better overall client relationships.

There you have it. I’m not saying you should actively try to make your audience as angry as possible, or that all your posts should have a negative tinge to them—all I’m saying is that when used sparingly and appropriately, a little bit of induced anger can do a world of good for your brand.

If you’re interested in learning more about how emotions play into your content marketing strategy and how to take advantage of them, be sure to contact us! We’ll help you build a strategy from scratch or reimagine one you’ve already developed.


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