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Is negativity effective?

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Nick Griffin
Is negativity effective?
on Feb 4, 2015 at 6:27:57 pm

Two recent forms of what can only be described as negative marketing have come to my attention recently and I want to point them out for discussion.

First was on the CBS drama "State of Affairs." Apple has for years been a very heavy user of product placement and this show is no exception. Every desktop computer has an Apple logo on the back of the screen and, I believe, most characters are using iPhones. ALMOST every desktop that is. In last week's show a college professor was being interviewed by CIA agents and I noticed that he was clearly using a machine running Windows 8. What a surprise later in the episode when it was revealed that he was a villain! Props on productions as expense as State of Affairs don't appear by accident, so I see this as an instance of deliberate NEGATIVE product placement.

Then, in the days leading up to the SuperBowl, Volvo was circulating a fairly unique social media campaign. It said that they were not advertising in the game, but every time we saw a spot from any other car company the viewer should text them with the name of someone and the reason they deserved a free Volvo. Five were to be given away. Let's say the company's cost was $35,000 per car. Five of them would be $175,000. Hmmm… SuperBowl spot for $4 to $4.5 million + production costs or $175,000 + whatever minor fees were paid to the social media agency for a disruptive, albeit negative campaign.

It's not like this kind of approach is new. For years various politicians have said, "My campaign doesn't have a lot of money, so when you see one of my opponents many commercials, think of me." But here's what's different, and quite clever in its own deviated way: Rather than saying "think of us when you see our competitors' spots," they are instead asking the viewer to take their eyes off the screen so they can text to Volvo.

So, is negative marketing effective? Certainly makes me wonder.


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walter biscardi
Re: Is negativity effective?
on Feb 4, 2015 at 6:36:08 pm

I didn't see that Volvo campaign but that's brilliant. It's not really negative, basically the same as a grocery store honoring a competitor's coupons. Negative is "when you see another car ad tell us how much better our cars are than theirs." In this case it was "see another car ad, well tell us about it and you might win one of ours instead."

Personally I think that's clever.

Walter Biscardi, Jr.
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Mark Suszko
Re: Is negativity effective?
on Feb 4, 2015 at 7:14:09 pm

The Volvo campaign counts on virology: you have to nominate another person for the award, so automatically you double the people involved in the campaign with every instance of participation. cars seem a particularly hard thing to market because in a sense, they are too easy to forget and blend into each other. In the Superb Owl spots, there were Camry and Nissan ads that both involved caring dads. Just two days later, are you 100 percent sure which ad was for which car?

I don't know that it's "negative" marketing, as much as an attempt at "disambiguation".


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Nick Griffin
Re: Is negativity effective?
on Feb 4, 2015 at 7:19:30 pm

[Mark Suszko] "disambiguation"


Now THAT's a big word, Mark.

And Walter, the part that I see as being somewhat negative, and yes potentially brilliant, is giving people an activity which takes them away from watching a competitor's spot.


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walter biscardi
Re: Is negativity effective?
on Feb 4, 2015 at 7:24:24 pm

[Nick Griffin] "And Walter, the part that I see as being somewhat negative, and yes potentially brilliant, is giving people an activity which takes them away from watching a competitor's spot.
"


But if you don't say anything about the competitor, how is that negative? Volvo isn't saying, "You should buy us instead of Chevy." All they're saying is, "see a car ad? nominate someone to win one of our cars."

They're just winning eyeballs there. Negativity is saying something against your competitor. Clever is getting you to look away from your competitor because you gave them a reason to do so.

Walter Biscardi, Jr.
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Tim Wilson
Re: Is negativity effective?
on Feb 4, 2015 at 10:04:36 pm
Last Edited By Tim Wilson on Feb 4, 2015 at 10:45:14 pm

I'll throw in a vote for negativity. LOL It works a LOT, especially for politics.

You get into this thing where people SAY they hate negativity, but in fact, in testing, negative ads are virtually the only ones that ever score high. People keep using them because they work.

It used to be one of the cornerstones of advertising, too. Comparing ours vs. Brand X. You still see it with domestic stuff -- laundry whitener and such -- and many food products. (Which I guess is still kinda domestic.)

Certainly true in beer. Remember the "skunk face" campaign? Entirely anti-

You know who's great at negative advertising? Apple. "I'm a Mac" was one of the most effective campaigns of all time. Not only was it negative, it was occasionally false. The negativity was sugar-coated (Adorable young Justin "Hipster" Long, vs. Nebbishy John "Square" Hodgman; easy to use vs. hard to use), but it was easily the most aggressive non-political "negative" campaign in history.

Of course Microsoft is taking a page out of that book with Surface -- hitting hard on all the things iPad can't do. And it has been working. iPad's sales continue to drop, and Surface sales are doubling.

They're also closer than you might think: $5b for Apple vs $1b for MSFT. Smaller, yes, of course, but an "actual" product. Apple has certainly built plenty of business that might NEVER achieve 20% of the revenue of its sector competitors, and they're quite real indeed.

Not that there aren't many good reasons for iPad sales to be dropping that have nothing to do with Surface -- I doubt ANY of it has to do with Surface -- but Surface is indeed getting traction that ramped up with negative advertising. You just can't say that iPad's drop is because the sector/form factor is getting less popular on the whole. That's absolutely NOT the case. Maybe it's time for Apple to go negative again.

Unlikely of course. Jobs was a negative, spiteful guy. Talk about driven by outrage! Tim Cook is relatively well adjusted. LOL Competitive as hell, but a nice enough guy that I'm sure he always found the negative campaigns distasteful. Compete on your strengths, not the other guy's deficiencies.

Which is of course the other dynamic. The power of negativity goes through cycles, and there are some companies who simply don't want to be associated with it, no matter what. We'll see, but I suspect Apple might be swinging that way.

You know who else feels that way? Front runners. Coke was getting its lunch eaten by Pepsi, but was in no position to go negative. NEW Coke went negative, hard.

People who call New Coke a failure miss two things. It pushed Pepsi products into smaller spaces on retail shelves, which was later replaced with OTHER Coke products once NEW Coke had run its course -- and its entire course was to create a "battle brand" (an actual thing in the marketing/advertising world) that in fact stopped Pepsi's progress in its tracks, and then started rolling it back, as people were reminded just how much they prefer Coke to Pepsi. REAL Coke, mind you, while simultaneously rejecting New Coke but that was of course the point. Reinforce loyalty to Coke, which would always stay "the real thing."

It was building brand loyalty through negative advertising. It won customers BACK. Maybe the first time it happened, but definitely not the last.

I also wonder if there are products that are immune to negative advertising. This car stuff is obviously skirting the edge of it (although I agree with Walter that it's nowhere near classically negative), but it makes me realize, I don't remember hearing a single explicitly negative car ad.

I think it's because an ad that says "those other cars are crap" also says that I'm an idiot for buying it in the first place. You can NEVER convert me by starting with the proposition that I'm easily duped or just not "smart" enough to have chosen you in the first place. Carmakers HAVE to sell WITHOUT reference to specific cars, but by using language from OTHER people that IMPLIES judgement.

I heard the phrase "most awarded pickup" last night. Perfect example. It says, "You chose a truck that has won awards, my friend. Of course it was a good choice. But ours has the MOST awards, so it's a better choice."

So, what do you think? Are cars maybe exempt from negative advertising working? Is there a campaign I've forgotten about?

I'll forego the observation that there's an entire sector of news entertainment (as opposed to just news) that has built itself around negativity -- far beyond one stereotyped TV channel, but books, magazines, speaker circuits, etc., built on outrage rather than excitement.

Along with the examples above, and many more like them, it's a reminder that No is ALWAYS more powerful than Yes. "Yes" fires up dopamine. "No" fires up adrenaline. Guess which drives sales and (other than cars) creates brand conversion. Adrenaline.

Playing to win? Make sure that going negative is part of your message cycle.


EDIT: I CAN"T BELIEVE I FORGOT APPLE'S FIRST NEGATIVE ADS...which were in fact the first ads for Mac at all! From the BEGINNING it was negative.

The first was Ridley Scott's famous 1984 ad, in which users of other computers are mindless automatons.

The second, during SuperBowl 85 and called "Lemmings," was so offensive that Apple employees revolted. Blindfolded businesspeople with briefcases marched themselves off a cliff, like Lemmings. The only "pro" Mac message was the words at the end: as a guy takes off his blindfold, fade to black with the words "The Macintosh Office."

(BTW, the only "pro" Mac message in the first one was that a woman in a tank shirt with giant bazooms and no brassiere was an Olympian hammer thrower. Yay for Olympic women in tank tops with giant bazooms and no brassieres! Ima buy me a Macintosh!)

Back to Lemmings, I've mentioned before that my father was at Apple from 1979-1985, and reported directly to Steve. Among other things, he was the head of sales, and he said, "You can't sell to people you just called lemmings." See car observation above. People aren't lining up to buy from someone who calls them an idiot.

Steve didn't let his foot off the gas, though. In his most extensive interview, to Playboy in 1985 (check it out -- easy to find with no naughty pictures, and some truly great insights), he even ran negative against customers. He said that the IBM PCjr looked like it was designed by customers. Everything about it was wrong because of customer input. Focus groups always come to the wrong conclusions because they're just not very smart.

This actually echoed his disdain for Apple as a whole in the early 80s. The Macintosh team set itself up in an outbuilding, flying the Jolly Roger: we're pirates from the rest of the company. The signatures of the Mac team were etched inside the case, because they were the only ones whose names SHOULD be there.

And of course, as a customer, you couldn't open the Macintosh case. The Apple II was built on openness. The Macintosh was based on the belief that you need to keep people out of your computers because they'll mess everything up, and you need to keep Macintosh away from the rest of the company, because THEY'LL mess everything up too, and since the customers you don't have yet are DEFINITELY idiots or else they'd already be your customers -- well, there wasn't anybody left to be positive with.

Even the internal imagery at company meetings was militaristic. You can find one of them online, using actual WWII footage, and Jobs as MacArthur calling for the liberation of the imprisoned IBM customers shown in bamboo cages.

I'm not disagreeing with the "crowds are idiots" observation, mind you. I'm just pointing out that Macintosh was rooted in negativity, and stayed very nearly 100% negative until the day Steve left. And while it was by no means a universal part of Mac's messaging for Jobs 2.0, it was by all means an important part of it.



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Mads Nybo Jørgensen
Re: Is negativity effective?
on Feb 5, 2015 at 10:02:16 am

[Nick Griffin] "
First was on the CBS drama "State of Affairs." Apple has for years been a very heavy user of product placement and this show is no exception. Every desktop computer has an Apple logo on the back of the screen and, I believe, most characters are using iPhones. ALMOST every desktop that is. In last week's show a college professor was being interviewed by CIA agents and I noticed that he was clearly using a machine running Windows 8. What a surprise later in the episode when it was revealed that he was a villain!"


If the company, CBS and/or "State of Affairs" was paid (directly or indirectly) to put Windows 8 on the villains computer, then I would suggest that this would be a breach of product placement ethics. However, I'm sure that if you ask Microsoft, that they would be happy for any professor to use their operating systems - even if the character is dumb criminal that got caught :-)

Ambush marketeers at sports events are not new. And it is a cheap way of getting traction without paying the BIG dollars. The London 2012 Olympics worked very hard on keeping them out, although some brands like NIKE was deemed successful up against the official brand Adidas. (London Business School report: http://www.london.edu/-/media/files/faculty%20and%20research/research%20cen...)- their success was in part attributed to getting the sports people to wear their brand.

The smart thing about the Volvo campaign, apart from being cheap to run in comparison, was that by using social media they could release it at a time where none of their competitors could arrange a suitable response. I'm guessing that next time those car brands will have learned their lesson and be ready with a bucket of cold water...

All the Best
Mads

@madsvid, London, UK
Check out my other hangouts:
Twitter: @madsvid
http://mads-thinkingoutloud.blogspot.co.uk


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jim shields
Re: Is negativity effective?
on Feb 26, 2015 at 3:41:58 pm

The Fox show 24 had my all-time favorite negative product placement.

Ford was a huge sponsor for 24 for many seasons. All of the CTU agents drove Expeditions and Excursions.

But then at one point, Agent Almeida's girlfriend is kidnapped by the terrorists and he's forced to work for the badguys. He goes to the CTU parking lot, and gets in the ONE AND ONLY CHEVY SUBURBAN IN THE CTU FLEET and takes off to help the badguys.

I thought it was absolutely hilarious.



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