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Stay Positive! Or, The Dangers of Negative Marketing

What would you do with an $85 million marketing budget? Of all the possibilities, using it to tarnish your image probably doesn’t cross your mind. However, that’s exactly what Forbes magazine contends President Barack Obama’s negative advertising campaigns may have done.

“President Obama’s attack ads might hurt Mr. Romney’s reputation but, in perfect symmetry, they might also dent Brand Obama, creating a boomerang effect,” the article says.

Watching successful politicians can inspire your business’ marketing strategy. However, when it comes to bashing your competition with a negative campaign, you should be wary of copying them. Here are five dangers associated with negative marketing.

1. It can bite the hand that feeds you

In 1985, Apple followed up its popular “1984”commercial with one where people fell off a cliff like lemmings. The advertisement failed because it poked fun at the people they hoped would buy their product.

A business that attacks a competitor runs the risk of creating the perception that it is mocking its customers. Is it so strange that people would not identify with the company that called them a lemming?

A more effective way to reach potential customers would be to have existing ones provide a testimonial about the amazing service your business provides.

2. It doesn’t show your product’s greatness

Putting together a marketing campaign takes time and money. Why spend your resources explaining a competitor’s shortcomings when you can extol the virtues of your product? If you believe your product is the best, have confidence that others will see it, too. Besides, mentioning your competitor just gives them free publicity.

People are more willing to buy from a company that has proof that their product is best than one taking cheap shots at a competitor. Show cold, hard data about why your product is superior and reap the rewards of an informed customer.

3. It doesn’t help customers

It’s a little early for Christmas movies, but you remember “Miracle on 34th Street”, right? In it, the real Santa Claus working as a Macy’s employee sent a customer to another store. Soon after the customer came back to say she would be a Macy’s fan for life.

Though the movie’s fictional, the lesson isn’t. Customers want a problem solved more than they want to be loyal to a brand. If you can’t satisfactorily meet a customer’s needs, don’t put on airs or downplay another store’s ability. You might even consider referring the customer to the business that can best serve her. The next time that customer needs help, she’ll remember which business steered her in the right direction.

4. Penalties might take you out of the game

Believe it or not, some companies will attempt to sabotage a competitor’s search results by complaining to Google about unfair practices, or leaving false negative reviews on sites like Yelp. Avoid that temptation. The risk of getting caught can do irreparable damage to your business.

Even if you suspect a competitor has used similar dirty tactics on you, stay above the fray. Stooping to their level takes time and effort that you could use to win new customers and retain existing ones.

5. People like positivity

Negative marketing campaigns do not leave a lasting impression with the consumer. Famous brands, like Apple (which apparently learned from its 1985 debacle), appeal to potential customers by engaging them and highlighting the benefits that only they can deliver. Brands that can inspire customers by showing a product’s positive effects will strike a lasting impression with the customer.

Want to know what resonates with your customers? Listen to them on social media with Vocus Social Marketing!

Image: Jon McGovern (Creative Commons)

About Brian Conlin

Brian Conlin is a content marketing manager for Cision. A former journalist, he enjoys researching and developing accessible content. When not writing, you will find him watching baseball and college basketball, sampling craft beer and enjoying Baltimore. Find him on Twitter @BrianConlin13.

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