The Value(?) of “Bad” Brands

We talk a lot about good branding. But some individuals and groups deliberately set out to create a “bad” brand. They position themselves in the market as occupying the “bad” end of the spectrum of human behavior.

Why? Because “bad” gets attention.

Little children learn this rapidly. Bad behavior, at the very least, gets attention. And certain individuals maintain this brand identity as they grow up.

Paris Hilton is a “bad” girl. She cultivates it, with her pictures and videos and tantrums. And Brand Paris gets a ton of attention for it, as did Anna Nicole Smith and other “bad” girls before them.

Tort lawyers have managed to acquire a brand identity as sharks and greedy opportunists, and they get attention by suing for outrageous amounts and keeping large percentages of the haul. The lawyer/judge who sued for $54 million over a lost pair of pants is only the latest in a string of never-ending examples of “bad” behaviors by this brand.

John McEnroe was a very good tennis player. But why did he get so much ink? He was a “bad” boy on the court. Brand McEnroe was yelling, pouting, and losing control – as well as good shotmaking. He differentiated himself – and gained market attention – not by being wholesome, or nice, or fitting in with those that respected the “rules.” People came to see him because he was a bad boy.

wreck.jpgWe all decry the slowdown on the highway as an accident is passed. But we find it hard to resist the urge to slow down and look ourselves. Because there is something in us that is drawn to looking at disaster. And, seeing “bad” behavior and the disasters that ensue, we find ourselves clucking our tongues at outrageousness, and condemning bad-ness (while somewhere deep inside, feeling just a twinge of envy, and longing to be a bit “bad” ourselves).

“Bad” brands know this. And they get outsized attention. Because “bad” sells itself. It seems to be the cheap and easy way to gain notoriety, though it usually ends up with the same results experienced by the reckless and daring driver – a wreck on the side of the road. “Bad” brands try to shortcut their way to fame, sometimes succeeding dramatically – but generally, leaving a lot of wreckage in their wake.

What are some of the “bad” corporate and personal brands that you have seen?

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3 Responses to The Value(?) of “Bad” Brands

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  2. Lewis Green says:

    Bad gets noticed but it is short-lived. Bad brands climb fast, and fall even faster. Good thought-provoking post Steve.

  3. bdunc1 says:

    I think there are two kinds of bad. Paris is an idiot and doing bad stuff that is prison-worthy. McEnroe is just bad-ass by personality. And I think he does most of it on purpose. I think the McEnroe badness sticks and works.

    Other notables:
    – Dennis Rodman
    – Donald Trump
    – Terrell Owens

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