I rather enjoyed an article by 37Signals posted today here.
My favorite comment in the article is a note about the reality of conflict. If you shout "fight!" in a bar, droves of people will come running out the doors.
Conflict breeds attention. Frankly it wouldn't even matter if you had Urkel fighting Bill Gates, it would still capture everyone's attention.
That started me thinking about the reason why people enjoy conflict so much. Is it the ability to identify with a winner/looser, to root for someone, the raw energy of the fight, the feeling of vicarious participation, the ability to witness a moment that steps outside of the state of contract (that we will do no violence) and creeps briefly into a state of nature or war.
Certainly one element that conflict provides is vicariousness, if that is a word. It's the ability experience all the raw feelings mentioned above without having to suffer the black-eyes of the real deal.
So I suppose bringing that element over to marketing. If one can create a sense of conflict and engage their primary demographic in the cause, then one can create a tremendous source of viral marketing in that you can engage a core group who identifies with you (the victim hopefully) and can shout "fight!" on your behalf.