When bad feedback is actually good

It is common when you analyze coverage of a brand to look for “tone” – as in “positive,” “negative,” or “neutral.”


Most people think automatically that “positive” = “good.”


But that is not always the case.


Sometimes bad coverage or bad feedback can actually be outstanding for the brand. Examples:


1.    Audience branding: Very generally, for teenagers the fact that their parents hate a brand, pretty much automatically means they are going to be interested in it and possibly will like it very much. This was the entire premise of the movie Footloose. Today, think Goth – nose piercings, black lipstick & nail polish, ripped clothing, etc. Or the pants-falling-off look. Tattoos, skinny jeans, texting.


2.    Product branding: Uggs boots are deliberately ugly yet extremely popular among people who pride themselves on their looks. Silly Bandz are self-consciously silly. Crocs are atrocious-looking. A Big Mac or a Whopper draws the ire of health-conscious consumers and their advocates but is a delight to those who like to thumb their nose at these “minders.”


3.    Personal branding: A recent article in Harvard Business Review talked about how fear-inducing get more respect than nice and fair ones. Though drill sergeant types can go too far and be frighteningly abusive, often people tend to respect the same people in authority whose authority they complain about. The whole fun of “The Apprentice” is that moment when Trump points his finger at someone and says, “You’re fired!”


4.    Experience branding: The rude bouncer at the popular nightclub is a Hollywood staple – think “Night at the Roxbury.” Or remember Seinfeld, where the “Soup Nazi” kicked people out of the eatery arbitrarily? Or on “Sex and the City,” where Carrie & company waited with bated breath to get into that exclusive new restaurant where it was impossible to get a table? The more exclusive and exclusionary the destination, and sometimes the longer you wait for service, the higher the perceived value of the experience.


5.    Technology branding: There are people for whom the joy of the brand is its puzzling difficulty. Think Android vs. iPhone or Ubuntu vs. Mac and even Windows. Like trying to solve the Rubik’s cube, sometimes the fun is in the impossibility.


Often valuable brands are polarizing. This is easy to see in the political world, where some candidates who could never get elected because they inspire so much passion on both sides can actually sell a lot of books, get on TV, etc.


When it comes to cars the same is true. The haters of “gas-guzzling SUVs” are countered by the lovers of muscle who simultaneously belittle “those wimpy Prius owners.”


When it comes to branding, once basic functionality is achieved, all bets are off and the emotional and sometimes irrational take over. The fact that someone is paying enough attention to hate a brand is far more profitable than someone not caring at all. Because for a brand, no attention = no sales and therefore, death.


Of course, times when bad feedback is exactly what it sounds like – bad – and should be taken seriously. The point is to use discretion and evaluate where it’s coming from, why it’s being said, what the context is, and what the underlying psychological meaning might be.


Have a good day everyone, and good luck!



Dr. Dannielle Blumenthal is an author, independent brand researcher, and adjunct marketing professor with 20 years of varied experience. An avid researcher and prolific, creative writer, Dr. Blumenthal's interests span communication, marketing, qualitative media content analysis, political rhetoric, propaganda, leadership, management, organizational development, and more. An engaged citizen, she has for several years worked to raise awareness around child sex trafficking and the dangers of corruption at @drdannielle on Twitter. You can find her articles at Medium, www.AllThingsBrand.com and www.DannielleBlumenthal.com, and she frequently answers questions on Quora. All opinions are Dr. Blumenthal's own.