Advertising cannot boost a bad reputation

Hands up…who likes Vodafone? Aha…some people clearly do not think they are the greatest mobile phone company on earth. In fact, in terms of market share, they are not; they used to be Number One, now they are dropping around Europe – so much so that pay has been linked to increasing the company’s market share. So, with market share being a real issue for the firm, clearly not everyone likes Vodafone. Which is why this advertisement in the video below will not be to everyone’s taste.

If you like Vodafone, you’ll laugh at the ad. If you dislike Vodafone you will find the advert tacky, a waste of time and annoying. So. here goes….

Well, they paid millions for it I guess, so they must think it is worth it. But new research suggests that advertising like this could be a complete waste of money. Indeed, the study from Australian psychologists implies that this kind of advertising can be more damaging than ever in these “social network” times.

The research got people to look at mobile phone adverts; sometimes the participants knew who the brand was, at other times they did not. What the psychologists knew was whether or not people liked a brand and whether they had been influenced by social networking to dislike a brand. When people were indifferent to a brand, the advertising was seen as OK. But when the brand was disliked, the advert was also disliked – confirming the negative views of the individual. But importantly, this was the case when those negative views had arisen via social networks.

In other words, if social networks make people think negative things about your products or services any advertising you might undertake to reduce those views has the opposite effect; it appears to solidify the negative viewpoint, not get people to change their opinion of you. The advertising industry – and some advisers to BP, no doubt – will hate this. They have been telling companies for years that if their reputation takes a hit, all they need to do is advertise their way out of the situation. This new study suggests that this approach actually worsens the problem because according to the Australian researchers people are effectively saying “I hate this company for trying to talk me into liking them”.

It all suggests that the power of social networks is much greater than many businesses have feared. Once you get a negative reaction to your business on a social network it appears that getting that stain removed is next to impossible. Best therefore not to let such problems arise in the first place.

We all know that BP got into their sticky situation at the moment because, somehow, somewhere, someone cut corners. The company is now spending millions to destroy the negative picture being painted. But if they hadn’t got into the situation in the first place, they would have saved millions and been liked by more people. Whatever went wrong in BP we will never really know, but one thing is for sure, if the business had not allowed itself to make those mistakes they wouldn’t – literally – “Be Paying” for them now.

With your business do you ensure that you don’t annoy people, that your customer service is king and that your products and services are top notch? If you do, the chances of negative comments on social networks will be lessened and that means you won’t end up with people permanently disliking you, no matter what you do to react. In other words, the problems that potentially face your business via social networks are nothing to do with those networks; they are all to do with the way you run your business. This new research suggests we we all need to pay more attention to that, because if the proverbial hits the fan there is precious little we can do about it. As ever, prevention is better than cure.

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