Can the negative make a positive impact?—an analysis on Negative publicity.

Can the negative make a positive impact?—an analysis
on Negative publicity.
Dr. Shampa Nandi,
Faculty, ISME.
research have been done to cast doubts on the old adage, “Any publicity is a
good publicity” and mostly it has been observed in many cases such as in Tylenol
cyanide case, Coco-cola pesticide scam or even “Maggi’s row”, that  negative publicity about any product or brand
hurt the sales, brand image and even employability status of the company. Any
publicity caused by adverse message, rumours, controversies, accidents which
may lead to potentially disastrous consequence to a firm can be referred as
Negative publicity. Firm’s reputation among its customers and competitors are
badly tarnished by Negative publicity. Doubts often arises whether negative
publicity can make anything good to a brand or a company? Probably the best
example of positive impact created from negative publicity is done by our
honourable Prime Minister Sri Narnedra Modi. In 2015, just before Loksabha
election, Congress senior leader Mr. Manishankar Iyer stated about Mr Modi,
that a tea seller in India is dreaming to be the prime minister of India. Mr
Modi, the charismatic leader used this negative publicity and started “Chai pe
charcha” meeting in different states and started gaining public confidence to
that extent that he could win the majority in election later. Very recently, just
before UP election, once more he has proven his magical capacity of turning a
negative rumour into a positive message when Ex-CM of UP Mr. Akhiles Yadav
jibed at him “Gadha”. Mr. Modi made a good come back in another rally of UP and
said he even take inspiration from “Donkey” who are industrious, fulfil their
responsibilities and loyal to their masters. It is evident from different
incidents that in politics negative publicity can be turned in favour of the
politician and it is mostly depends on the charisma and ability to come back in
a positive way.
When negative publicity actually have a
positive effect?
to day experience and research have proven that negative publicity often hurts
the company in terms of sales, market value or brand image, although a number
of intriguing examples, contradicts these findings. Leonard Lee, and Michel
Tuan Pham (2010) have stated that though positive rumour or valence have
positive impact, negative publicity may create product awareness, and sometimes
even help to gain the brand top of the mind awareness. They argued that
negative publicity would work as an environmental cue, just like advertising
and create more awareness, especially when the product awareness is low. This
is quite similar to the case of sleeper effect (Hannah and Sternthal 1984),
where people might have a feeling that they have heard something about the
product but forgot about the valance, which might lead to awareness and increased
sales. Previous research by Berger, Sorensen, Rasmussen (2010), on negative
reviews of books done by “New York Times” 
have found that negative publicity has actually increased sales of the
books written by unknown authors. Good examples of that are Taslima Nasreen and
Salman Rushdie. Nasreen, a writer from Bangladesh was unknown until a “Fatwa” issued
by a fundamentalist group for her book “Nirbachita Kolam (Selected Writings) in
the 90’s. She attracted international attention and more than 100,000 copies of
that book were sold after that. Similar incident happened for famous British
Indian novelist Salman Rushdie for his famous novel “The Satanic Verses”.
In case of written materials like newspaper, books, novels, magazines, negative
publicity not only create awareness but also even increase sales. When
publicity and purchase occasion have a gap, negative publicity works well in
creating awareness. In case there is a rumour, controversy or any news which
add spice, the circulation of newspaper for the following day immediately shoot
In case
of politics negative publicity, rumour or gossip about any politician make
people read or follow more about him without even realizing what they are doing. In the electoral campaign “negative advertising” or
“negative attacks” by the opponent parties is a well-established promotional
technique of comparative advertising. Common people could gather a lot of
information about a potential candidate through this negative advertising which
otherwise difficult to obtain. Many a times these negative political ads
contain substantive, policy oriented materials. Negative political advertising
or publicity helps voters to make a judicious choice to cast their votes.
In film industry controversy or
negative publicity affects box office performance immensely. Much before the
release of the film, any controversy or negative publicity help a film to be
noticed and creates a sense of curiosity, or interest among viewers and finally
lead to good box office collections. Controversies are more impactful than
normal publicity stunt and they may happen because of religious sensitivity,
cultural misinterpretation, statements given by actor, or by political
misjudgement. In recent time, movies like “Sultan”, “Udta Punjab”, “Bajerao
Mastani” made good business, for which one reason was negative publicity or
controversy. Movie and movie stars get benefited from the coverage of different
media due to any controversy. Film
stars often engage themselves in controversy or negative publicity believing
it is better to have some bad
publicity than no publicity at all,  aligned
with Oscar
Wilde’s statement “The only thing worse
than being talked about is not being talked about.”
general, negative publicity is not a good thing and should be quieted by the
company. It often hurts everything from product and brand evaluation. Though in
some cases and in some industry negative publicity helps in creating product or
brand awareness and to a certain extent even increases sales, it does not mean
any negative information will have positive effects. Companies should
understand public sentiment and rather than taking a chance on negative
publicity which might damage a company’s image, should deal any negative
publicity with different strategies which help the company to rebuild its image
and help people forget the negative message. 
Berger, Sorensen, and Rasmussen(2010), “Positive Effects of Negative Publicity,” 816
Marketing Science 29(5), pp. 815–827.
Hannah, D. B., B. Sternthal (1984),
“Detecting and explaining the sleeper effect,” Journal of Consumer Research 11(2) 632–642.
Leonard Lee, and Michel Tuan Pham
(2010), “How Environmental Cues Impact
Consumer Judgments,” Advances in
Consumer Research Volume 37, pp. 45-48.

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