1. “There is no such thing as bad publicity.” To what extent is this true?

Define: Bad publicity- negative images and news about an individual and/or company making the headlines repeatedly. It could also possibly refer to controversial news.

This phrase is commonly used in by businesses and individuals especially if they want to acquire fame in the shortest possible time in this highly saturated world that permeates them with news. This phrase assumes that even if there is bad publicity, it is good  as your name is being talked about by people, suggesting how you are in vogue and even relevant in this highly competitive market place.

What is the purpose of bad publicity and how can it be good for companies and even individuals?

1) Companies exploit bad publicity to create marketing hype about their companies and the new products that they want to launch. This bad publicity can ride on controversial points such as restricting the kind of consumers for purchasing  their products or even employment procedures that are discriminatory.

E.g. Abercrombie and Fitch hits the headlines for restricting customers who are too “fat and old” for purchasing their clothes as it does not fit into the target group that they want to cater to. This may have the reverse effect of building up the brand image of the company as being “hot, athletic and sexy” and lead to more youths purchasing their products.

2)Celebrities often make use of bad publicity to shoot to fame and to be the “talk of the town”. This is especially pertinent in this highly competitive cut-throat industry that requires people to just be “known” and to carve out a niche for themselves. In such cases, any form of publicity would be good publicity, as long as their names are being talked about. It suggests that at least their names are on the minds of the people, and they stand a chance of being remembered.

E.g. Justin Bieber has made frequent headlines for his bad boy behaviour such as drink-driving, and even hitting out on people on the streets. Despite these, his fame and reputation grows each time when he hits the news for something negative. It appears that he is riding on “bad fame” in order to be known in the music industry.  In fact, Justin Bieber has been trying to rid his clean-cut image ever since he was first introduced to this industry. He has been criticized for being too “young and immature” when he first entered the music scene, leading to many not taking his works seriously.

What is so detrimental about bad publicity?

1) Companies may lose the trust and credibility of the consumers, especially if this particular company has always presented itself to have a clean image. Any breach of this image may result in consumers boycotting the companies and a corresponding fall in the revenue. Once trust is lost, it is often hard to restore it back.

E.g. Breadtalk’s soya milk saga has tainted their public image regarding the integrity of the company and the nature of how they get their products. Many consumers have taken the issue online and even threatened to boycott the company for future purchases due to such unethical mislabelling of their soya milk bottles. Consumers were outraged that they have been deceived into paying money for “overpriced” soya milk.

2)  Companies may have to spend millions of dollars trying to rebuild this “public relations glitch” especially when they have been swarmed with negative news in such a short period of time. This is especially so for companies that have been facing speculations and law suits about their business practices and mistakes that they have created.

Recent examples include Noble group which has been a target of short-sellers due to their lack of transparency in their accounting practices. This accusation comes at a high price of them needing to hire a top accounting firm- PWC to clear the air. Millions of dollars have been spent to buy-back their shares in order to prop up their share prices, which have plummeted 70% ever since the scandal broke out.  Also, Volkswagen has been embroiled in a recent scandal and controversy about them cheating on the fuel emission tests. They may potentially face a fine up to billions of dollars and recent company results have shown a fall in sales of their sales. Though it is too early to conclude that the fall in sales is due to this negative news, it is highly possible that Volkswagen will face increase competition to win back the trust of their customers.

3) Politicians and even athletes who are embroiled in scandals often tarnish the organization or the party that they represent. Very often, it will result in a loss of “face”, status and even monetary benefits in a desperate bid to preserve the integrity of the organization or the party.

E.G. Tiger woods lost millions in endorsement deals and people do not view him in the same light after news of his affairs broke out.  Michael Palmer’s affair was also handled in a very “PR” manner in order to ensure that the PAP’s image was not tarnished.

Fame is indeed a double-edged sword, and it really depends on how forgiving the public is towards such negative news.  So why is it that the public is so forgiving towards some individuals and companies, while so heartless towards others? What are some of the reasons? Let’s discuss.

Students should note that by the nature of the subject, there is several other possible pointers too, so feel free to discuss freely below!

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