When your target market holds a negative association with your brand, you can do two things. One of them is that you can try and improve the perception of the brand on that aspect. This is the approach that most marketers take. However, this is not easy by any means and takes time to accomplish as in this case, you are trying to reverse the belief of the customer. On the other hand, you can try and turn that negative into a positive while not trying to change that perception at all.
An example of a brand which managed to do exactly this is Listerine. Listerine always had a terrible taste and people used to find it horrible to rinse their mouth for 30 seconds with the product. To counter this, Listerine took up the positioning of an ‘antiseptic mouthwash’ with an image of a product that fully cleanses your mouth, and doesn’t just work like mint to cover bad breath. It created the consumer perception that the product had a horrible taste because it was better at cleaning the mouth (something similar to a medicine).
Let’s also look at Las Vegas as an example. A city that is associated with so many negatives but one thing seems to cover up all of them in our minds – What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas! The way this line of thought came about was that Vegas, after failing to establish itself as a family destination, accepted its image and came up with the “What happens here, stays here” campaign in 2003. The city has been hot on the list of tourists ever since. Another example is that of Volvo with its campaign of “Volvo: Boxy but good” which tried to counter the unfashionable look of the Volvo.
This approach does come along with its fair share of risks. Once you accept a brand negative, you are taking a stance which is very hard to reverse. Also, there is a chance that competitors might try to exploit this admission of a negative attribute. However, since people already associate that negative with your brand, it is much more believable from the consumer’s point of view when you associate a positive with this negative.
So when is it that you can try and turn a brand negative into a positive? Firstly, the negative that you are accepting should be an acceptable one and not a ‘deal-breaker’. You can’t be a telecom service provider and accept bad network connectivity as a brand negative and build on it. Also, it goes without saying that it is better if the positive is strongly linked with (or is a consequence of) the negative it counters.
This approach has been relatively under-utilized by marketers. I personally can’t recall any such examples from the Indian scenario. Can you? And can you think of cases where this approach could be well utilized? Or better yet… can you come up with the positioning for any brand that counters its negative image? And are there any other things that marketers should keep in mind while going for such an approach? We’d love to hear your thoughts on this post and points that we may have missed out… ‘Cause we are relatively inexperienced marketers -> hence eager to listen and learn! 🙂