Are You A Content Risk Taker? These Brands Are

Content Risks
Are you willing to fail? Content marketing can be more dangerous than you believe. Failure doesn’t just mean that page views or user engagement numbers decline. It’s easier than you think to hurt your brand with tasteless or offensive content. But taking selected risks can pay off and help you stand out from what is fast becoming a crowded field.

Some companies, like Starbucks, manage this type of risk particularly well, while for other major brands it’s still unclear whether their riskier content strategies will pay off or bite back. We took a look at the way a selection of brands are taking targeted risks and the dangers they face.

COMPANY: Netflix
RISK: Going after your opposition in a public forum
REASON TO TAKE IT: Educate customers and get them on your side
WATCH OUT FOR: Retribution from your rivals

Netflix is going head to head with telecom providers over constraints on Internet bandwidth, and it’s a well-publicized fight. The company believes that broadband suppliers are intentionally impeding the delivery of Netflix content to consumers, since these providers also carry their own, competing content. Netflix is using its blog to call these companies out in a public forum, publishing frequent updates that rank telecom provider performance. These posts exist in a blog full of new product features, upcoming title releases, and even recipes, and it’s clear that Netflix wants to educate its everyday customers about the behavior of the Internet service providers it is fighting. However, Netflix’s business is dependent on these providers, and provoking these corporate behemoths is certainly taking a risk.

COMPANY: Starbucks
RISK: Letting customers propose products
REASON TO TAKE IT: Learn exactly what the customer wants
WATCH OUT FOR: Inability to act on customer ideas


Started in 2008, MyStarbucksIdea is an open online forum where the coffee chain’s fans can pitch product ideas, improvements and other changes they want to see.

Back in 2008 Starbucks created My Starbucks Idea as a forum where customers can suggest improvements to the company’s food and beverage offerings, facilities, rewards programs, and even community involvement programs. More than 200,000 posts show that the site attracts significant customer attention, and there’s a page entirely dedicated to improvements Starbucks has made based on these user comments. The open nature of the site has won Starbucks kudos from the media as well as corporate consultant types and java fans. But there’s risk involved, too. Now that Starbucks has invited customers to create content, shutting down the site would be akin to telling customers the company no longer wants to hear their feedback. By opening itself up to and even acting on customer input, Starbucks has set a strong precedent for how it will continue to interact with consumers, and it could hurt the brand if it ever pulls away from this stance.

RISK: Taking a stance on a controversial issue
REASON TO TAKE IT: Standing up for what you think is right
WATCH OUT FOR: Alienating customers and users

The online dating company OKCupid took a risk and made a very public statement about its stance on gay rights. When Brendan Eich, a man who supported a same-sex marriage ban in California, became CEO of the tech company Mozilla, OKCupid took action. Users visiting the OKCupid site using Mozilla’s Firefox browser run into a notice explaining that the brand does not approve of Eich’s promotion given his documented stance on gay marriage. The notice encourages visitors to use other browsers. Because OKCupid is a company that provides dating services, it makes more sense that it would address a gay rights issue, but it is also a bold message. The company has chosen to risk alienating users and potential users who share the same beliefs as Eich, though on the other hand it may have gained greater favor among people who support same-sex marriage. The other risk is in targeting an entire company—especially one that provides free, useful software—because of the beliefs of an individual.

RISK: Exposing your business’ weakness
REASON TO TAKE IT: Build customer loyalty through transparency
WATCH OUT FOR: Loss of faith in your company

From its inception, the digital re-broadcast company Aereo has been the target of cable providers and broadcast networks who claim the well-funded upstart is stealing their content and distributing it. The company has been banned in a number of states. But rather than bow to the pressure of lawsuits from larger companies, the brand has taken to its blog to play the underdog, revealing the legal challenges it faces and encouraging its customers to voice their support via social media. This corporate transparency can work two ways: it can scare investors and potential customers away, or it can build brand allegiance. Aereo obviously has great faith in its product, but it remains to be seen if this openness will play out in its favor.


Free Ebyline Guide

Don't Let a Bad Content Writer Damage Your Brand

The new content marketing basics anyone can use

Subscribe to the latest content strategies...

About Adam Dudek

Adam is a freelance writer specializing in digital content. He has previous experience at an online startup as well as in the entertainment industry. He can be reached at