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Can the negative make a positive impact?—an analysis on Negative publicity.

Can the negative make a positive impact?—an analysis on Negative publicity.
Dr. Shampa Nandi, Faculty, ISME.
Ample research have been done to cast doubts on the old adage, “Any publicity is a good publicity” and mostly it has been observed in many cases such as in Tylenol cyanide case, Coco-cola pesticide scam or even “Maggi’s row”, that  negative publicity about any product or brand hurt the sales, brand image and even employability status of the company. Any publicity caused by adverse message, rumours, controversies, accidents which may lead to potentially disastrous consequence to a firm can be referred as Negative publicity. Firm’s reputation among its customers and competitors are badly tarnished by Negative publicity. Doubts often arises whether negative publicity can make anything good to a brand or a company? Probably the best example of positive impact created from negative publicity is done by our honourable Prime Minister Sri Narnedra Modi. In 2015, just before Loksabha election, Congress senior leader Mr. Manishankar Iyer stated about Mr Modi, that a tea seller in India is dreaming to be the prime minister of India. Mr Modi, the charismatic leader used this negative publicity and started “Chai pe charcha” meeting in different states and started gaining public confidence to that extent that he could win the majority in election later. Very recently, just before UP election, once more he has proven his magical capacity of turning a negative rumour into a positive message when Ex-CM of UP Mr. Akhiles Yadav jibed at him “Gadha”. Mr. Modi made a good come back in another rally of UP and said he even take inspiration from “Donkey” who are industrious, fulfil their responsibilities and loyal to their masters. It is evident from different incidents that in politics negative publicity can be turned in favour of the politician and it is mostly depends on the charisma and ability to come back in a positive way.
When negative publicity actually have a positive effect?
Day to day experience and research have proven that negative publicity often hurts the company in terms of sales, market value or brand image, although a number of intriguing examples, contradicts these findings. Leonard Lee, and Michel Tuan Pham (2010) have stated that though positive rumour or valence have positive impact, negative publicity may create product awareness, and sometimes even help to gain the brand top of the mind awareness. They argued that negative publicity would work as an environmental cue, just like advertising and create more awareness, especially when the product awareness is low. This is quite similar to the case of sleeper effect (Hannah and Sternthal 1984), where people might have a feeling that they have heard something about the product but forgot about the valance, which might lead to awareness and increased sales. Previous research by Berger, Sorensen, Rasmussen (2010), on negative reviews of books done by “New York Times”  have found that negative publicity has actually increased sales of the books written by unknown authors. Good examples of that are Taslima Nasreen and Salman Rushdie. Nasreen, a writer from Bangladesh was unknown until a “Fatwa” issued by a fundamentalist group for her book “Nirbachita Kolam (Selected Writings) in the 90’s. She attracted international attention and more than 100,000 copies of that book were sold after that. Similar incident happened for famous British Indian novelist Salman Rushdie for his famous novel “The Satanic Verses”. In case of written materials like newspaper, books, novels, magazines, negative publicity not only create awareness but also even increase sales. When publicity and purchase occasion have a gap, negative publicity works well in creating awareness. In case there is a rumour, controversy or any news which add spice, the circulation of newspaper for the following day immediately shoot up.
In case of politics negative publicity, rumour or gossip about any politician make people read or follow more about him without even realizing what they are doing. In the electoral campaign “negative advertising” or “negative attacks” by the opponent parties is a well-established promotional technique of comparative advertising. Common people could gather a lot of information about a potential candidate through this negative advertising which otherwise difficult to obtain. Many a times these negative political ads contain substantive, policy oriented materials. Negative political advertising or publicity helps voters to make a judicious choice to cast their votes.
In film industry controversy or negative publicity affects box office performance immensely. Much before the release of the film, any controversy or negative publicity help a film to be noticed and creates a sense of curiosity, or interest among viewers and finally lead to good box office collections. Controversies are more impactful than normal publicity stunt and they may happen because of religious sensitivity, cultural misinterpretation, statements given by actor, or by political misjudgement. In recent time, movies like “Sultan”, “Udta Punjab”,
“Bajerao Mastani” made good business, for which one reason was negative publicity or controversy. Movie and movie stars get benefited from the coverage of different media due to any controversy.
Film stars often engage themselves in controversy or negative publicity believing that
it is better to have some bad publicity than no publicity at all,  aligned with Oscar Wilde’s statement “The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.”
In general, negative publicity is not a good thing and should be quieted by the company. It often hurts everything from product and brand evaluation. Though in some cases and in some industry negative publicity helps in creating product or brand awareness and to a certain extent even increases sales, it does not mean any negative information will have positive effects. Companies should understand public sentiment and rather than taking a chance on negative publicity which might damage a company’s image, should deal any negative publicity with different strategies which help the company to rebuild its image and help people forget the negative message. 
·         Berger, Sorensen, and Rasmussen(2010), “Positive Effects of Negative Publicity,” 816 Marketing Science 29(5), pp. 815–827.
·         Hannah, D. B., B. Sternthal (1984), “Detecting and explaining the sleeper effect,” Journal of Consumer Research 11(2) 632–642.
·         Leonard Lee, and Michel Tuan Pham (2010), “How Environmental Cues Impact Consumer Judgments,” Advances in Consumer Research Volume 37, pp. 45-48.