Would you say anything for publicity? This man would

Thursday 11th June, 2015

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The creator of Secret Diamond Club dating site has no problem with how he is portrayed in the media. In fact, he welcomes the publicity. But is this a sustainable PR strategy?

I have no problem with being portrayed as a bastard. As long as people sign up for the site

Gustav Terkelsen, founder and CEO of Secret Diamond Club, will say anything to get attention. Most recently: “The UK is an ocean of ugly women, and you have to sail around for a long time and fish a lot, a lot, a lot to find a beautiful woman.” 

Secret Diamond Club is an online dating service that charges “successful” men more than £1,000 per month for membership. What they offer in return are beautiful women interested in meeting these “successful” men.

But the online dating service is not the focus of interest here, the PR Strategy is. Terkelsen admitted that there’s probably the same amount of escort activity going on as any other dating site, that rich men don’t want to spend time searching through normal dating sites, and that the women are rated solely on their looks. 

Gustav Terkelsen's controversial views gain publicity for his dating website. Photo: Daily Star

Terkelsen also admitted that he would say anything outrageous to get his business attention. “It’s an intentional strategy in order to get publicity. I have no problem with being portrayed as a bastard. As long as people sign up for the site, it’s no problem. I really don’t care what anyone says about me.”

And the people criticising him online are just helping him, he says. “It’s ironic, whenever someone posts an article with me saying something, they’re getting their friends to click the article, spreading the word about my business.”

So business should be good. But it’s hard to say. Terkelsen doesn’t want to share profits, number of employees, revenue and number of matches on the site or give any examples of successful love stories beginning on the site. 

Maybe that’s why he is using this strategy. According to Cass University senior lecturer in consumer culture, branding and moralism, Marius Luedicke: “If you have no publicity it means no one will know about you, so it’s a cheap way of getting attention. If the page is unknown, he has nothing to lose.” 

As much as his comments may irk, it might be a successful strategy to adopt in the long term, says Luedicke. 

“Marketing theory tells us that when you are really provocative it will raise brand awareness, but people can’t actually remember what the brand is. People forget the negative associations but remember the brand. Except if it leads to boycott.” 

Creating awareness without pushing consumers away is hard though. “There is a very fine line to walk between damaging the brand and getting attention for it. There’s a little provocation in most marketing strategies,” Luedicke says. 

PR strategist Janet Murray agrees that the strategy works when it comes to getting attention, but says that you should consider the long-term perspective carefully. 

If you’re just trying to be controversial and it doesn’t come from the heart, people can tell

“Journalists are interested in controversy, so if you’re doing something that’s risky, you will get attention. If you’re very secure about your target audience and sure that they won’t be offended by what you’re saying, then yes, it can work really well.” 

Murray says RyanAir is a good example. “CEO Michael O’Leary says outrageous things, but his customers don’t care, they just want a cheap plane ticket. Essentially he solves their problems by giving them cheap airfares.” 

You should tread carefully though, she advises. What might seem like a good idea now can have negative consequences. “It comes back to who you want to work with long-term. The target audiences that are attracted to what you say are going be the ones who stick around.” 

Another example is Neil Strauss, author of The Game, a successful self-help book advising how best to pick up women. “He says outrageous things as well but his customers agree with him so he’s fine,” Murray says. 

An aggressive PR strategy calling UK women ugly will probably gain Terkelsen customers that believe saying such a thing publicly is a good idea. But he had better mean it. According to Murray: “If you’re just trying to be controversial and it doesn’t come from the heart, people can tell.”

The CEO of Secret Diamond Club does seem to mean what he says, or maybe it’s all just a PR stunt. We’ll probably never know. And he’ll probably never care.