Does negative news hurt ‘brands’ less today?

Raahil Chopra analyses the impact of a deluge of controversies on the phrase ‘Any news is good news’

May 08, 2014 02:26:00 PM | Article | Campaign India Team

There’s no dearth of controversy. And ‘news brands’ are at the centre of them all, be they political parties or celebrity sportspersons. The negativity is only fuelled by social media. So is the phrase ‘Any news is good news’ more valid today than ever before? If it allows the brand or personality to take centre stage, it can’t be all that bad – or can it?
Sanjay Tripathy, senior executive vice president, marketing, product, digital and e-commerce, HDFC Life, explains, “A particular negative news may get viral, talked about, but, as we have a wide range of communications outlets and information overload, we immediately or smoothly jump into another topic. Public memory is short lived. Moreover, their attention gets diverted very fast. The public is not more forgiving nowadays, but they forget fast because of the rampant information flow.”
Madan Bahl, managing director, Adfactors, agrees with Tripathy that there is too much negative news today. He reasons, “There may be some truth to the statement that consumers are more immune to negative news today. There is so much adverse news on so many issues and people that a certain degree of immunity is understandable.”
Ramanjum Sridhar, founder and CEO, Integrated brand-comm, adds, “The country has become blasй about such things (being in the news for negative reasons) because there are goof ups constantly. From a brand POV, if someone has a bad experience, they post on social media and ask people to share this around, as they want to hit out at a company. An example would be posting about a bad experience at a restaurant. The restaurant will act on the message and in all probability sort the issue. But will the person then mention this on social media?”
Ashwani Singla, MD and CEO, Penn Schoen Berland (PSB), South Asia, cites the example of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and explains that negative publicity can be dangerous if it’s sustained over a period of time. “Initially for AAP as a party it was good. It had a lot of attention in the media over a period of time and a lot of people got to know about it because of that. But since it’s not been positive over the recent past, a lot of people have started doubting the party and there are now certain question marks around it.”
Sridhar agrees with Singla’s sentiment about sustained negative publicity and has a word of caution for the Indian cricket captain, MS Dhoni: “His conflict of interest has been around for a while now and can become a ‘big’ issue anytime now. He needs to be prepared to face that.”
Bunty Sajdeh, CEO, Cornerstone Sports and Entertainment, thinks that the impact is relative and depends on a multitude of factors. “The kind of person(s) in question, their seniority and positioning in their respective fields along with their past history, track record and overall reputation would be of importance to figure the impact of ‘negative news’. But all in all I would say ‘any news is good news’ works better if one is in the entertainment business as opposed to being an athlete or politician. The majority of our population is the youth and they are today perceptive enough to know who’s skirting certain lines and who’s crossing them. So it is a fine balance that needs to be maintained when in the news for whatever reasons,” surmises Sajdeh.
Ramanjum Sridhar, founder and CEO, Integrated brand-comm
“The need for a more strategic approach from the POV of people in communication and branding is very critical and they should have a contingency plan. One must be prepared for that. Loss of form (of a cricketer) or getting into a controversy is inevitable.”
Ashwani Singla, MD and CEO, Penn Schoen Berland (PSB), South Asia
“There’s a differentiation between controversy and negative press. Any controversy that leads to negative press and castigation of the celebrity is never a good idea. Controversy that has a neutral to positive situation can help increase your awareness.”
Sanjay Tripathy, senior executive vice president, marketing, product, digital and e-commerce, HDFC Life
“I think the boundary between positive and negative news has blurred. Both kind of news attract public attention, which drives visibility for the news brand. Moreover, in today’s age of social media, news and information get amplified and talked about by a much larger audience. So, in a way, it carries along the brand in every public conversation.”
Madan Bahl, managing director, Adfactors
“One cant’ generalise. It depends on the context. It depends on what the bad news is. If the bad news is about something trivial that society doesn’t takes too seriously then it won’t hurt much. Similarly, if something is exaggerated by media then people judge and find the right balance.”
Bunty Sajdeh, CEO, Cornerstone Sports and Entertainment
“Indians are very emotional by nature and patriotic too. So their threshold in terms of patience and forgiveness is a lot higher. Deserting an idol is a very difficult option during trying times and an absolute last resort should it come down to that.”