The word “negative” obviously has a pretty negative connotation, but at the risk of saying it too many times, we’re here to tell you how to find the positive when it comes to negative marketing. There are several different ways you can interpret the phrase “negative marketing.” One is in regards to the negative reviews you may get regarding your products or services; another is a tactic that showcases how you can blend positive and negative marketing to create a successful outcome, while yet another way is to take jabs at your opponent but still keeping it funny and lighthearted.

Using Negative Reviews to Your Advantage

We understand that the thought of someone savaging you, your products, or your company online can be terrifying. However, it doesn’t have to be without its benefits. Although your first reaction may be to strike back with some pretty harsh words of your own, the best thing you can do is stay calm. Adding fuel to the fire will cause more harm than good. Rather, take the time to talk to the customer to find out exactly what it is they’re dissatisfied about. Providing excellent and personalized customer service to an unhappy customer can often turn them into a lifelong customer when they realize their opinion is valued.

Covert Negative Marketing

Think of your biggest competitor. Have they been known to “throw mud” at your brand? They may think it helps their brand by sullying the opinions of consumers against you, but it tends to make them look bad. This negative marketing tactic we mentioned above uses more covert means to make the competition look bad. To do this, companies must be creative and strategic.

One of the best examples of this is back in the early 90s when Pepsi released Pepsi Clear. Not one to be upstaged by the number two brand in the soda world, Coca-Cola released Tab Clear. Where the negative marketing comes in here, is that Coca-Cola had no intentions of cornering the market on the clear soda genre. Instead, they did it knowing full well that it would hurt the consumer opinion regarding clear sodas. They did this not by releasing it as Coca-Cola clear, but under the lesser known Tab brand, which in and of itself was a brilliant marketing move. Just by doing this, they were able to convince buyers that clear sodas were diet drinks (because Tab was a diet soda only), for women only (because Tab was considered a “woman’s brand”), and thus brought the clear soda market crashing to the ground. This was a prime example of when negative marketing worked without actually having to be overtly hostile.

Comedic Negative Marketing

Sometimes your company has a natural rivalry. Think about it: if your company is successful enough, there will be someone you compete with. Like Batman always has Joker, Coke has Pepsi, Mac has PC, McDonald’s has Burger King, Nike has Adidas, and the list goes on and on and on. As mentioned earlier, throwing direct shade at a competitor would be ill-advised, but throwing some humorous jabs could win you some chuckles and maybe a few sales.

Take for example, the “Get A Mac” campaign. Apple showcased several selling points on why Mac was better than PC without harshly criticizing the competitor. Humor can take the edge off of negative advertising as long as it is lighthearted and true. Another example is the Whopper Detour. If you place an order for a Whopper on the Burger King app within 600 feet of a McDonald’s, users unlock the Whopper Detour promotion (a Whopper sandwich for a penny). An obvious troll at McDonald’s, it’s still an amusing use of technology and marketing. Burger King is not the only fast food comedic royalty. Wendy’s social media account is legendary for hilarious tweets that deride several other fast food chains.

So remember: negative marketing doesn’t always have to be “negative.” Used in the right context and tone, negative marketing can be integrated into any marketing strategy.

No matter your brand story, the characters, or buyer personas, are all the same. You just have to know what to look for and how to use them to your advantage. If you need help with your brand story or content marketing strategy, let the expertise from years of people watching and mental storytelling help you along the way.