When Toyota, a brand renowned for safety and reliability recalled millions of vehicles worldwide due to safety concerns, sales plummeted. The scandal cost $2 billion and resulted in a 10% decrease in sales. The negative associations jeopardised their brand.
On the other hand, when Kazakhstan was mocked tirelessly in the film Borat and led to negative associations, their tourist industry boomed. According to Hotels.com, holiday requests to the country rose by 300%. This leaves the question, when does bad press have a detrimental impact?
Berger and colleagues tested this question by measuring sales from books that received positive or negative reviews in the New York Times. Unsurprisingly, positive reviews increased sales by 32-52%. Negative reviews, however, had a much more interesting outcome. Books sales by established authors decreased by 15% whereas sales by unknown authors increased by 45%!
Bad publicity favoured unknown authors because it increased awareness. It grabbed attention and over time, people remembered the book but forgot the negative associations. Established authors, however, already had high awareness and their positive associations were challenged. There is such a thing as bad press after all.
Berger, J., Sorensen, A. T., & Rasmussen, S. J. (2010). Positive effects of negative publicity: When negative reviews increase sales. Marketing Science, 29(5), 815-827.