Does Bad Publicity for Startups Exist?

Does Bad Publicity for Startups Exist?

You know the saying – there’s no such thing as bad publicity? Well, you might want to reassess this piece of wisdom. Especially if you’re a part of the startup world.

The concept of “no bad publicity” became a popular and evergreen discussion topic in the PR and marketing world. This idea is linked to the profit-driven American showman and a circus owner from the 19th century, Phineas T. Barnum, who never missed a chance to advertise his business, for better or worse. Although Barnum is attributed with the saying, we cannot be certain he is the definite creator. Be that as it may, there are many admirers of this “business philosophy”, which is probably the easiest to detect in the world of celebrities.

Of course, when it comes to putting your startup on its feet, it’s ridiculous to follow the same pattern. Why would anyone deliberately create bad publicity for their business at the very start, right?

brand startup message

Can Bad Publicity Be Good For You?

Get ready for an exciting mix of consumer psychology and marketing science. Back in 2010, a research paper called Positive Effects of Negative Publicity: When Negative Reviews Increase Sales was published in an attempt to get to the bottom of the “every publicity is good publicity” fallacy ( i.e. determine if it is indeed a fallacy or not). The results?

Negative publicity can indeed increase sales, but only in cases when product awareness and accessibility is low. In other words, it can work for the new players on the market, but not necessarily. The research showed this by examining a case of a negative book review in New York Times. Important detail: the book was unknown before the review, and the fact it appeared in such a renown media source resulted in increased sales.

When you think about it, there’s nothing illogical about this: people were surely curious to read the book of which they have never heard before. Perhaps they wanted to see if the review matches their personal judgement. However, when it comes to established authors, it’s definitely not good to receive a negative review in a reputable magazine like New York Times. Readers won’t forgive writing failures in this context and they simply don’t want to waste any time. But this is just one particular case.

Does that mean your debut should be scandalous or spark controversy?

Absolutely not. If you’re making your first steps as an entrepreneur, it might be confusing where to start with your marketing and how to position your brand on the market.

bad publicity startup brand

Marketing is Everything, Everything is Marketing

In the startup world, marketing is every step you make – it cannot be narrowed down just to advertising activities, social media campaigns, or writing effective strategies. It’s much broader than that. Marketing is also how you handle customer complaints, how they interact with your brand, how much detail you dedicate to your website’s copy, how you present yourself during business events, how you communicate within your team and externally, etc.

All the things that seem little and insignificant are actually super important if you take in mind they generate word of mouth marketing, the unrivaled type of marketing when it comes to how mighty it is. This is exactly what shifted the power to customers.

The new “outside-in” approach has been introduced, meaning businesses tend to get to know consumer’s behavior and habits, and use this insights to woo them effectively.

By becoming aware of the way you carry your business, you can help it grow. No doubt about it, marketing is the main instrument for building your brand and maintaining its reputation. Keep in mind it is not a one-time thing, but it implies continuous practices that help you achieve your set goals. Only with constant effort will you be able to communicate your brand properly and send a cohesive message about it across different channels.

That’s basically the idea behind the concept of integrated marketing communications. It implies aligning different marketing strategies in order to make the most of each separate segment, campaign, or channel, be it offline or online – with a clear end goal of creating a consistent message about your brand.

Whereas with old school marketing, businesses focus on the 4Ps (product, price, place, promotion), with IMC it’s all about the 4Cs – consumers, communication, convenience, and cost. The new “outside-in” approach has been introduced, meaning businesses tend to get to know consumer’s behavior and habits, and use this insights to woo them effectively. Naturally, this consumer-driven approach is exactly what people want: research shows around 72% of them said so.

marketing startup brand

Finding a Voice For Your Brand

Given the fact marketing includes the human factor – potential customers and clients who may or may not react positively to your set campaigns (or your brand, in general), startups need to realize there is a certain dose of unpredictability at play. Unpredictability requires agility, as well as trying out different things until you get it right. This is where your brand is put to the test.

But first thing’s first: how do you build a brand and what role does marketing play in the process?

Let’s say there are two retail stores that sell various brands of shoes, but are not manufacturers on their own. So, we’re talking only about providers. The offer is basically the same, the quality and prices too. But what makes customers prefer one over another?

There might be factors such as better location – it’s certainly more convenient for them to shop at the one closer to their home. Other than that – it’s about the store’s brand, the way they maintain their reputation, and how they handle their customer service and overall marketing. Investing in service design is one way to get ahead of the competition.

We’ve written about branding many times before: after all, is all about personalization and finding a way to stand out on the market. As a reminder, here are some of the tips for getting started:

  • Define your target audience
  • Define the direction of your brand’s development
  • Map your strengths and do your research of the competition properly (i.e. what could make you a preferable choice)
  • Experiment with different types of communication, but always keep in mind who your audience is and set the tone accordingly
  • Form a clear message for your brand your target group can relate to (it’s great if you can incorporate a call-to-action)
  • Don’t underestimate the power of design
  • Understand that brand building never stops
  • Stay true to your brand and take good care of its reputation

Once you define your target audience, you can start figuring out how to provide them with value and motivate them to engage with your brand. That’s how inbound marketing works: you have to earn people’s interest in order to convert them to buyers, and hopefully – turn them to retaining customers. Knowing who you are dealing with means you’re already halfway to achieving success. And the best way to get started?

Content marketing.

your brand voice

Content Helps You Make the Most of Your Marketing

Content is the alpha of your company’s marketing, your main mean of communication, the foundation you can build campaigns on, and create great marketing mixes. And of course, you need to start by building an awesome website, as it is the ultimate ID card for your business in cyberspace.

When producing meaningful content, there are two things to consider: the relevance of the topic you’re thinking about pushing and the way you’re going to present it. You can use Google Trends to see if there’s something that’s currently the talk of the town which you can use in your blog posts.

Did you know 90% of consumers said watching a video about a certain product helps them make a purchasing decision? You know you have to ace that, no doubt there.

Also, be present on social media to keep up with what’s going on – it’s an incredible resource in this sense. This doesn’t mean you’ll be lurking in the background and stalking the behaviour of your target audience, but rather observing what they value and how they are used to interact so you can give them what they want. Plus, you can always include them in the process of brainstorming by directly asking them what they want. Surveys are a great way to do that.

Great content ensures you great reputation while enabling you to build authority in your chosen industry. It’s one of the most effective ways to take care of your reputation.

It’s always advisable to produce various types of content. Articles are great, but don’t neglect infographics, whitepapers, eBooks, presentations, and of course – videos. We’ve all read forecasts about video taking over the marketing industry and this format truly brings significant results. Did you know 90% of consumers said watching a video about a certain product helps them make a purchasing decision? You know you have to ace that, no doubt there.

With human attention span getting shorter, it’s crucial to make your content consumable and appealing to different psychological profiles. And if you can make it require the least cognitive strain possible, that will be great.

Once you have original content on your website that’s designed with having in mind your target audience’s interests, needs, and wants – you can focus on social media, email marketing, and designing creative digital campaigns. When you think about it, these are all very useful channels of distribution and they are extremely important for building relationships with your potential customers and clients. But if you don’t have anything to share, it’s borderline worthless.

content marketing

Final Takeaway

In order for your brand to survive, you need to make a fine balance between chasing profit and creating meaning.You need to think of your brand as a person, a living being that has its own purpose, beliefs, and values, and it engages with real people.

But in order to truly succeed in the competitive market, we need to make a shift in perception about what marketing truly is. By adopting the broader notion of it and respecting the concept of integrated marketing communications, we can show our current and future customers what makes us different from others.

Thinking negative sentiment will bring you more sales is immature and a reflection of poor reasoning. Even if it does, it won’t create positive feelings about your brand, let alone returning customers.

As we’ve shown, bad publicity exists and you should definitely run away from it.

All successful global brands (e.g. Nike, Starbucks, Coca-Cola) have something in common: they invite people to identify with the brand’s values. They don’t just sell products, they sell emotions and lifestyles. Coca-cola is practically trying to brand the emotion of happiness, which is why drinking it is much more than satisfying thirst.

That’s the power of branding amplified with the power of marketing – every step the marketing team of the mentioned companies made lead them to become desirable and ahead of others. This is solid proof you should never base your marketing solely on money, but on making relationships.



Goran Bogunovic

Now, you're probably wondering how I got here! Running a marketing agency, educating people about branding, and helping you to develop your own presence online. To understand, you’ll need to follow me @Domain.Me

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