Bad publicity can belittle consumers’ perception of a brand. Today consumers have access to a broad range of outlets for any product information such as online news, forums, podcasts, webcasts etc. Although these outlets have supplied companies with new prospects for marketing their products and services, they have also provided difficulties for the companies to manage or even confine negative publicity about their products and services. Negative publicity about manufacturing defects in auto-mobiles, or medical devices, computer chips that ruined laptops or desktops are just few of the examples that have reached consumers all over the world.
How damaging is negative publicity?
One has to assume that consumers take notice of negative publicity and subsequently change their attitudes. Previous studies have shown that people place more weight on negative information rather than on positive information, when making a decision. And there is certainly no lack of real world examples to support this thesis. For example the negative publicity surrounding the acceleration problem in the Audi 5000 led to a decrease in consumers preference and purchase for Audi models for many years (Sullivan, 1990). Just recently, the negative publicity surrounding Tesco for misleading consumers with a press campaign on its response to horse meat scandal has taken its toll, with sales dropping as a result. No direct repudiation or even denials of the negative publicity could avoid the negative impact.
How do consumers react to negative publicity about a brand they like?
Previous research propose that negative events such as product failure or negative publicity about a product or service, often prompts consumers into assessing the cause of the behaviour. For example, if a poor quality product is launched, consumers may perhaps blame poor management practices or blame suppliers for supplying low quality parts.
Companies make considerable investments in developing positive relations to their brands, which can quickly deteriorate with negative publicity. Given the high stakes involved, companies should search for ways to reduce the impact of negative publicity.
Regrettably, few strategies seem to be effective in this regard. Direct repudiation or even denials of the negative publicity are mostly ineffective. However, long term strategies for building strong brands, which inspire customers to concentrate on pro-brand sentiments and to prepare counterarguments against negative publicity seem more promising. If consumers can be encouraged to pay more attention to contingent factors such as problems in the industry , or problems with outside suppliers, the impact of negative publicity can be countered.
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