Can Any Good Come From Bad Publicity?
Strange? Maybe – but maybe not. My reasoning is that unless a company is afflicted by an ongoing crisis which is reported on almost daily in the print, broadcast and social media, most people in due time forget the occasional negative they read or hear and just remember seeing the company or product name in the media.
Now comes some proof that justifies my instincts. Three professors from Wharton and Stanford published research on this subject last month in the journal, Marketing Science, which was reported in The New York Times (10/29):
“A crucial factor is how familiar a brand or product was before the negative publicity. Crunching data that cross-matched book sales against critics’ appraisals, they found that negative reviews of a new book by an established author hurt sales,” but for books by relatively unknown authors, negative publicity had the opposite effect. They found, said The New York Times, that sales of Michael Jackson’s records rose during periods when the singer was in the news for child molestation or dangling his baby over a balcony.
As I had predicted, “follow-up studies pointed out that as time passes, we may not remember the context in which we heard something, we just know it’s familiar.”
Recently when the Gap changed its logo to the enormous disdain of its customers and finally changed it back again because the online shouting got too loud; the complaints were not about the company’s products; they were about the logo. Thus the study showed that the “more indirect the negativity is (about the logo – not the products) the more likely it could have a positive effect (on sales).”
The chairman of a Fortune 500 company, which was a long time client of Makovsky + Company, once made some “out-of-plan” undesirable remarks in an interview with New York Magazine. When I called the client to point out this faux-pas and discuss a solution, he retorted, “Oh I don’t care what they say I said, as long as my name is mentioned.” He obviously understood the dynamics of what was happening here.
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