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Bad Publicity: Fact or Fiction?

Marketing Connection on bad publicity

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Bad Publicity: Fact or Fiction?


The term ‘There is no such thing as bad publicity’ is very familiar and divides public opinion down to essentially two things- true or false. Matriarch of the infamous Kardashian family, Kris Jenner, firmly believes that all publicity is good. Judging by their success, Donald Trump, Miley Cyrus, and Kanye West may agree to Kris’ sentiments but what about BP, Tiger Woods, Lance Armstrong, United Airlines, and a list of other brands who have failed to reap the good harvest?

Before Miley Cyrus exposed her long tongue and redefined twerk (check out meaning #2), she was the simple girl-next-door who just came off her Disney hit series Hannah Montana. She was mainly popular with teens and widely approved by parents, but in MTV’s Video Music Awards in 2013, the then 20-year-old shocked the world when she behaved rather lewdly. Though she was shamed and condemned by everyone, her twerk video went viral and she was declared ‘Artist of the Year’ by MTV that same year. Not too bad.

Marketing Connection on Bad publicity

Is she Autobot or Decepticon? Image Source:

On the other hand, BP’s disastrous Gulf oil-spill did not help its image in any positive sense. Taking a massive hit, they have since spent millions picking up broken pieces through commercials to restore their image. Another recent example would be United Airlines’ bizarre treatment of passenger David Dao due to ‘overbooking’, resulting in a broken nose and a pool of mess, literally and figuratively. The act was caught on video and went viral, raking in shares and undivided attention, but it has not been pleasant for the airline. Accompanying the company’s $255 million loss in market value is a potentially expensive lawsuit from David Dao. Not too good.

So is bad publicity good? As a media analyst, our answer is: it depends. While there may not be a clear-cut answer, it does appear that the adage applies mostly to celebrities as eccentric behaviours are normally celebrated as unique and proud to be ‘born this way’ according Lady Gaga. Furthermore, if you are known and loved to be hated like Kanye, being hated continues to work. These edgy celebrities have somewhat created a niche for themselves, branching out from the norm and gathered a following that way. That was how the Rock genre started anyway. That is why these people seem unaffected by negative publicity.

Marketing Connection on Bad publicity

Uh oh. Image Source:

Does the same formula work for brands? Unfortunately not, or maybe we have not found one that has succeeded yet. This is because while brands should be different in terms of services and products offered, all competitors must give the same quality service to customers- polite, fair, and honest. In any customer-centric business, having an ‘edgy’ customer service or eccentric employee never sets your brand apart as special in a good way. At all. Instead, it sets you up for what BP and United Airlines are facing- a bad rep and lots of red.

As a media company helping brands build their reputation, we believe bad publicity is not the best way to raise brand awareness, even if it does. Instead, the surest way is to have a campaign well-planned and executed perfectly- one that represents your brand’s core values and ethics that resonate positively with people and solidify their trust. To conclude, bad publicity does exist.

*Marketing Connection is a digital marketing company that specializes in website design and online marketing in Penang. We love to help new businesses to grow their business further.


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