Outrage As A Marketing Strategy

This is strategic, and you’re being played.

If you missed it, here’s the scoop

In a nutshell: an Instagram-famous internet celebrity—the one who wrote the book Girl, Wash Your Face—has been in and out of the media lately for saying demeaning things, for plagiarism, and more generally for schlepping a brand of toxic positivity onto people, many of whom actually suffer from real discrimination and barriers that prevent them from “thinking positively” enough to manifest what they want in life. If you’re about to Google for the event, please don’t Google it until you read the rest of this article, because your attention and clicks enables this strategy and makes it worse. But also, I confess that I clicked and I shouldn’t have, which is how I got here, writing this.

Here’s the playbook

  • Step 1: realize that your engagement and traffic is flattening or declining, and you have something you need to sell, so you need media attention, sooner rather than later.
  • Step 2: Post about someone with less privilege than you in a questionably* offensive way.
  • Step 4: Leave it up for 3–4 days and watch the vitriol make this your highest engagement of the month. As the comments roll in, the algorithms pop it up higher and higher, garnering more attention-and more free press.
  • Step 5: Get more attention and free press through national media outlets writing about you. Only then write a brief excuse designed as contrition.
  • Step 6: Make sure to say nothing for 48 hours because you want to keep collecting all of that earned media.
  • Step 7: Delete earlier offensive posts and offer a better (but not real) apology.
  • Step 8: Make sure the posts right before the posts you deleted are links to the event you are selling. Sit back, sell tickets to your event, and delete the evidence.

Creating outrage is a fairly effective marketing strategy, and people want you to feel this way.

In middle school, someone told me a few times that ignoring bullies was an effective strategy. I’m not fully convinced that’s always the case, but sometimes it works well. The more attention we paid to Donald Trump, the more media attention he got. The more outrageous stuff he posted, the more press he got. It was a winning recipe-for him. And for news outlets.

Everyone on Instagram is selling

They’re selling their ideas, their lifestyle, their crafted vision of what they want you to think of themselves, or they’re advertising. Under The Influence, a podcast about Mom Influencers by Jo Piazza, is a look at the ways in which Instagram has created an explosion of individually-curated magazine-worthy brands, minting many women (often mothers) as millionaires along the way.

Scrolling on Instagram is not a private or free activity.

There are no free seats, and you can’t opt out and sit on the sidelines. Your participation by scrolling is feeding dollars to the people you pay attention to. I know how tiring it is to be a parent in a pandemic late at night. Those three hours of revenge bedtime procrastination ( it’s a thing) aren’t just costing you sleep, they are funneling dollars towards the very people you’re watching. We are directing dollars, attention, and amplification of the ideas we want to see in the world with our attention eyeballs.


The Startup Parent Podcast — A weekly show on parenting, entrepreneurship, and the future of work. New episodes every other Monday. Find us on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Play, or whenever you listen to podcasts. If you’d like to get new episodes delivered to you by email, sign up for the weekly newsletter with insights, strategies, and new ideas for working parents.


Startup Parent’s take on motherhood, work, and rejecting hustle culture is everything I need in my life right now.”

“If I hear one more meaningless “productivity tip” I might scream. Your newsletter is always refreshing and honest.”

Sign up to get our Friday newsletter here.

Sarah K Peck

Sarah Peck is a writer and the founder of Startup Parent, a media company documenting the stories of parents in leadership across work and family. She hosts the weekly Startup Parent Podcast. Previously, she worked at Y Combinator backed One Month, Inc, a company that teaches people to code in 30 days, and before that she was a writing and communications consultant.

Escape from Alcatraz swimmer. NCAA All-American. Founder of Startup Parent: http:/startupparent.com