In the world of marketing and media, the phrase “any publicity is good publicity” has been a long-standing notion. This idea suggests that any form of attention, positive or negative, can benefit a brand or personality by increasing visibility and sparking conversations. However, the question remains: Is all PR really good PR? Let’s delve into the concept by examining instances where brands and personalities gained or lost attraction due to their actions.
The Power of Controversy: The Nike Kaepernick Campaign
In September 2018, Nike launched a groundbreaking advertising campaign featuring former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, known for kneeling during the national anthem in protest against racial injustice and police brutality. The decision was met with intense controversy, with many critics calling for boycotts of the brand. Nevertheless, the campaign proved to be a massive success for Nike.
According to Edison Trends, after the initial backlash, Nike’s online sales spiked by 31%, and the company’s stock reached an all-time high. The bold move resonated with Nike’s core target audience, capturing the attention of younger and socially conscious consumers. While some existing customers may have boycotted the brand, the campaign brought in a wave of new customers who admired Nike’s stance on a pressing social issue.
The Fall from Grace: The United Airlines Debacle
In April 2017, a video went viral showing a passenger being forcibly removed from a United Airlines flight due to overbooking. The incident sparked outrage across social media, with millions of people condemning the airline’s actions. The negative PR fallout was swift and severe.
According to Fortune, United Airlines’ stock experienced a significant drop, wiping out approximately $1.4 billion in shareholder value within a day. The incident led to a public relations nightmare, with the airline facing extensive criticism and facing the risk of a long-term reputation hit. Despite later apologies and compensation offers, the damage was done, highlighting in this instance that not all PR is good PR.
The Redemption Story: Samsung’s Explosive Crisis Management
In 2016, Samsung faced one of the biggest crises in its history when reports emerged of their flagship smartphone, the Galaxy Note 7, catching fire and exploding due to battery issues. The incidents prompted a global recall and massive negative media coverage.
Samsung’s initial response was criticised for being slow and insufficient. However, the company’s crisis management approach ultimately turned the situation around. They apologised, took responsibility, and improved their communication with customers.
According to Brand Finance, despite the crisis, Samsung’s brand value only decreased by 1% from 2016 to 2017. Their ability to recover relatively quickly was attributed to their transparent and decisive actions to fix the issue and rebuild trust with their customers. This case exemplifies how proper crisis management can mitigate the damage caused by negative PR.
Cancel Culture and Its Impact on Famous Personalities
In recent years, cancel culture has gained traction on social media, where public figures or celebrities face severe backlash and often lose endorsement deals or career opportunities due to offensive or controversial statements and actions.
One example is the case of the popular YouTuber Logan Paul, who faced a significant backlash after posting a controversial video in 2017, showing a dead body in Japan’s Aokigahara forest. The video led to public outrage, and many sponsors dropped their partnerships with Paul.
According to Business Insider, Logan Paul’s estimated earnings dropped significantly in the aftermath of the controversy, affecting his online brand and reputation. This illustrates how negative PR, especially in the age of social media, can have lasting consequences for personal brands and careers.
In addition to his online presence and vlogging, Logan Paul ventured into the world of entrepreneurship and launched his own line of merchandise and products in collaboration with boxer KSI. The notable product in question is Prime, a bottled hydration drink that gained both popularity and controversy among young consumers.
Despite the controversy Logan Paul faced previously, his online popularity with younger audiences remained steadfast. His YouTube channel had millions of subscribers, mostly consisting of teenagers and young adults, who were loyal to his content and persona.
Given Logan Paul’s massive online following and influence, Prime had a built-in audience ready to try it out. Young consumers, particularly those who admired Logan Paul, were intrigued by the product and eager to support his business ventures, even camping outside shopping malls the night before launch. His association with Prime acted as a powerful marketing tool, leveraging his celebrity status to generate interest and sales.
We FCK’d Up: KFC’s Ingenious PR Turnaround and the Power of Humble Authenticity
In early 2018, KFC faced a massive supply chain issue that resulted in a shortage of chicken at many of its UK outlets. The situation quickly turned into a PR nightmare, with disappointed customers taking to social media to voice their frustration and mock the fast-food chain for running out of its signature menu item.
In response, KFC took a bold and unconventional approach to issue an apology. Instead of a standard press release or social media post, the company released a full-page advertisement in several UK newspapers with a clever twist. The letters of the KFC logo were rearranged to read “FCK,” humorously acknowledging the mistake and effectively saying, “We messed up.”
This brilliant use of humour and self-deprecation not only showcased KFC’s willingness to admit its fault but also endeared the brand to its customers. The cleverly crafted apology went viral, gaining major media attention, and became a talking point on social media platforms. Many applauded KFC for their lighthearted and authentic response, with some even suggesting that they handled the situation better than most brands could have.
By owning up to their mistake and creatively addressing the issue, KFC effectively turned a potential PR disaster into an opportunity to connect with their audience. The FCK apology demonstrated the power of sincerity and clever marketing, reminding other brands that owning up to errors and offering a sincere mea culpa can often lead to a positive outcome in the ever-watchful eyes of the public and the media.
In conclusion, the notion that all PR is good PR is not universally applicable. While some instances demonstrate that controversy and negative publicity can be turned into opportunities for brands and personalities, the reality is more nuanced. Negative PR can have severe consequences and may result in reputational damage that takes substantial effort and time to repair. On the other hand, positive PR stemming from bold and meaningful actions can elevate a brand’s reputation and attract a new, engaged audience.
The key takeaway for brands and personalities is to understand the importance of responsible PR management and crisis response. Embracing ethical practices, transparency, and understanding the values of their target audience can lead to more enduring success, even in the face of PR challenges. In the ever-connected digital world, public perception matters, and navigating the delicate balance between good and bad PR can be the difference between triumph and failure.
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