Why Negative Marketing Might Work Better

In Featured on App, Marketing and Sales by Vaughn Highfield

Mcdonalds bad press

Marketing needn’t always be positive

There seems to be a general trend in marketing to focus on your brand or product in a good light. After all, it makes sense to think that way really, who would want to promote a product by slating it?

However sometimes negative coverage actually boosts interest, as seen by the latest marketing attempts of anti-Obamacare groups whose efforts only helped fuel sign ups of the Affordable Care Act. In a blog post, Brookings Institution researcher Niam Yaraghi explained that in the US, each state’s per-capita ad spending on anti-ACA ads generally saw a trend in increased sign-up rates for healthcare. As The Atlantic points out, the anti-ACA advertising budget is actually 15 times that of ACA support, so really it’s a great allocation of budget for the upcoming midterm elections.

It’s not the only time this has happened either, I’m sure you can think of numerous occasions where you’ve been convinced to watch/read/buy/eat/etc. something based on a friends scathing review. I know that I’d never have found out about Tommy Wiseau’s The Room if it wasn’t for YouTube clips and word of mouth about how terrible it is. The same can be said of the, frankly awful, Human Centipede films, which garnered attention from the bad press surrounding it for being both grotesque and a genuinely awful piece of cinema.

Indeed, even three researchers from Wharton and Stanford conducted a study into bad publicity in 2010. They examined sales data and book reviews, seeing that there was a spike in sales when the New York Times dished out a good review, and there was a slump in sales when it pushed out a bad review.

However, things changed when the book in question was from a relatively unknown author. Here they saw a spike in sales after a bad review, people’s curiosity getting the better of them as they set out to discover what makes it so bad.

According to Yaraghi, one reason why people were influenced to sign up for ACA by the anti-ACA ads is really one of two things.

A: awareness of the service has been increased and so the more ads they see, the more they think about the service. Clearly showing that they genuinely believe it to be of worth.

or B: people see the ads and believe that Congress will repeal it in the near future, and so want to capitalise on the service now while it’s still available to them.

Now, step back and think about the bad publicity that your brand or product might be getting. Will it really damage the brand? Is damage control completely necessary? If it’s something small, a bit of controversy can only help propel its name into people’s minds – at which point they can weigh up a final decision on their own.

If it’s an established brand with a loyal base, it’s probably worth making sure the fires of hate don’t spread too fast or too far.