This Week’s Marketing Lesson? Go Topless!

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(This post originally appeared on the Huffington Post)

There’s a bitter war happening right now in Coshocton County, Ohio between the owner of a strip club and a local church pastor.

The strip club, called Foxhole North, is located in a little town called Newcastle and the church, called New Beginnings, is situated about nine miles away. And for the past eight years the owner of the club and the pastor of the church have been at war. And in war, like everything else, there’s always two sides to every story.

The pastor of New Beginnings, Bill Dunfee, believes that the strip club is immoral, gives the area a bad reputation and should be shut down. Thomas George, who runs the strip club, argues that he’s breaking no laws and running a legitimate business – so the church should leave him alone. Things have escalated over the past few weeks. Dunfee and his supporters have setup protests outside the strip club and George has responded by sending a few of his strippers to hold signs outside the church on a recent Sunday morning. Oh, and the strippers were topless, too. Apparently this practice is legal in the state of Ohio. Who knew?

Things have escalated to the point of physical confrontations and have gotten so bad that just this week local officials issued a letter to both parties asking them to cease and desist with their weekly protests. The letter, co-signed by the county’s prosecutor and sheriff aid that the “dispute gives the county a negative image and stretches local law enforcement.” The law director admitted that both Dunfee and George believed in what they’re doing and have the right to continue their fight. Apparently, “there’s nothing legally he can do to stop the protests, but he hoped both would understand the potential consequences of their actions and desist for the good of the community.”

Who’s right? Who do you support?

On the one hand, you’ve got the religious guy who wants what’s best for his community. He has his opinions on what’s moral. And let’s all be honest -no one with kids really wants a strip club nearby. But then you’ve got the strip club owner who is legally running a business that’s providing a service which is clearly in demand. Not only that, the two are located miles apart from each other, not across the street. So why are they fighting? They may say it’s about religion, morals or the right to free speech and capitalism.

But it’s not really about that. It’s about publicity. And marketing. Take note fellow business owners: there’s no better way to get PR in this world then to pick a fight with someone. And to have that person fight back. You want them to fight back. Because if you desire attention for your business, your church, or whatever organization you may lead then go to battle. Attack a competitor. Do something outrageous (are topless protestors allowed in my state too?). Provoke your rival.

Everyone within a 50 mile radius of Coshocton country has known about this fight for years. And you can bet it’s a popular topic of conversation, topless protestors nothwithstanding. People choose sides. People get passionate. People get excited. They have their opinions. What better way to attract like-minded members to your church then to come together in unity against a moral challenge to your families and community? And what better way to build customer loyalty than to fight people who want to infringe on your personal and legal right to operate your business and provide a service? And what better way to get free attention then to have a public battle? Pepsi did this by calling out Coke. Apple made fun of Windows PCs. Nike and Reebok dissed each others’ sneakers. Online bloggers often go viral when they attack other bloggers. Religious leaders like Al Sharpton become national celebrities when they go on TV and yell about an injustice. TV personalities like Jerry Springer and Geraldo Rivera become famous when their guests punch and kick each other.

Want to get attention for your business? Pick a fight with someone. You don’t have to take your top off if you don’t want. But it may help. Oh, and be grateful when they fight back. This strategy works no matter where you are. Just ask the people of Coshocton.

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