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Positive Effects of Negative Publicity: When Negative Reviews Increase Sales

Author

Listed:
  • Jonah Berger

    () (The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104)

  • Alan T. Sorensen

    () (Stanford Graduate School of Business, Stanford University, Stanford, California 94305)

  • Scott J. Rasmussen

    () (Stanford University, Stanford, California 94305)

Abstract

Can negative information about a product increase sales, and if so, when? Although popular wisdom suggests that "any publicity is good publicity," prior research has demonstrated only downsides to negative press. Negative reviews or word of mouth, for example, have been found to hurt product evaluation and sales. Using a combination of econometric analysis and experimental methods, we unify these perspectives to delineate contexts under which negative publicity about a product will have positive versus negative effects. Specifically, we argue that negative publicity can increase purchase likelihood and sales by increasing product awareness. Consequently, negative publicity should have differential effects on established versus unknown products. Three studies support this perspective. Whereas a negative review in the New York Times hurt sales of books by well-known authors, for example, it increased sales of books that had lower prior awareness. The studies further underscore the importance of a gap between publicity and purchase occasion and the mediating role of increased awareness in these effects.

Suggested Citation

  • Jonah Berger & Alan T. Sorensen & Scott J. Rasmussen, 2010. "Positive Effects of Negative Publicity: When Negative Reviews Increase Sales," Marketing Science, INFORMS, vol. 29(5), pages 815-827, 09-10.
  • Handle: RePEc:inm:ormksc:v:29:y:2010:i:5:p:815-827
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    File URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1287/mksc.1090.0557
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Dobrescu, Loretti I. & Luca, Michael & Motta, Alberto, 2013. "What makes a critic tick? Connected authors and the determinants of book reviews," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 96(C), pages 85-103.
    2. Samadi, Mohammadreza & Nikolaev, Alexander & Nagi, Rakesh, 2016. "A subjective evidence model for influence maximization in social networks," Omega, Elsevier, vol. 59(PB), pages 263-278.
    3. Juan Nicolau & María Santa-María, 2013. "Celebrity endorsers' performance on the “ground” and on the “floor”," Marketing Letters, Springer, vol. 24(2), pages 143-149, June.
    4. Jacobsen, Grant D., 2015. "Consumers, experts, and online product evaluations: Evidence from the brewing industry," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 126(C), pages 114-123.
    5. Michela Ponzo & Vincenzo Scoppa, 2015. "Experts’ awards and economic success: evidence from an Italian literary prize," Journal of Cultural Economics, Springer;The Association for Cultural Economics International, vol. 39(4), pages 341-367, November.
    6. David Tan, 2016. "Making the news: Heterogeneous media coverage and corporate litigation," Strategic Management Journal, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 37(7), pages 1341-1353, July.
    7. Pawan V. Bhansing & Mark A. A. M. Leenders & Nachoem M. Wijnberg, 2016. "Selection system orientations as an explanation for the differences between dual leaders of the same organization in their perception of organizational performance," Journal of Management & Governance, Springer;Accademia Italiana di Economia Aziendale (AIDEA), vol. 20(4), pages 907-933, December.
    8. Trilce Navarrete & Karol J. Borowiecki, 2015. "Change in access after digitization: Ethnographic collections in Wikipedia," ACEI Working Paper Series AWP-10-2015, Association for Cultural Economics International, revised Oct 2015.
    9. Kummer, Michael, 2014. "Spillovers in networks of user generated content: Pseudo-experimental evidence on Wikipedia," ZEW Discussion Papers 14-132, ZEW - Zentrum für Europäische Wirtschaftsforschung / Center for European Economic Research.
    10. Sofie Bitter & Sonja Grabner-Kräuter, 2016. "Consequences of customer engagement behavior: when negative Facebook posts have positive effects," Electronic Markets, Springer;IIM University of St. Gallen, vol. 26(3), pages 219-231, August.
    11. Michael Scholz & Verena Dorner, 2013. "The Recipe for the Perfect Review?," Business & Information Systems Engineering: The International Journal of WIRTSCHAFTSINFORMATIK, Springer;Gesellschaft für Informatik e.V. (GI), vol. 5(3), pages 141-151, June.
    12. Cleeren, Kathleen, 2015. "Using advertising and price to mitigate losses in a product-harm crisis," Business Horizons, Elsevier, vol. 58(2), pages 157-162.
    13. Brooks, Chris & Godfrey, Chris & Hillenbrand, Carola & Money, Kevin, 2016. "Do investors care about corporate taxes?," Journal of Corporate Finance, Elsevier, vol. 38(C), pages 218-248.
    14. Karthik Sridhar & Ram Bezawada & Minakshi Trivedi, 2012. "Investigating the Drivers of Consumer Cross-Category Learning for New Products Using Multiple Data Sets," Marketing Science, INFORMS, vol. 31(4), pages 668-688, July.
    15. Keuschnigg, Marc, 2015. "Product Success in Cultural Markets: The Mediating Role of Familiarity, Peers, and Experts," MPRA Paper 63444, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    16. Marco Caliendo & Michel Clement & Edlira Shehu, 2015. "The effect of individual professional critics on books’ sales: capturing selection biases from observable and unobservable factors," Marketing Letters, Springer, vol. 26(4), pages 423-436, December.
    17. Sherry Bartz & Alexander Molchanov & Philip Stork, 2013. "When a celebrity endorser is disgraced: A twenty-five-year event study," Marketing Letters, Springer, vol. 24(2), pages 131-141, June.
    18. Leif Brandes & Stephan Nüesch & Egon Franck, 2016. "Death-related publicity as informational advertising: evidence from the music industry," Marketing Letters, Springer, vol. 27(1), pages 143-157, March.
    19. Craig L. Garthwaite, 2012. "You Get a Book! Demand Spillovers, Combative Advertising, and Celebrity Endorsements," NBER Working Papers 17915, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    20. repec:eee:touman:v:62:y:2017:i:c:p:42-53 is not listed on IDEAS
    21. Park, Sangwon & Nicolau, Juan L., 2015. "Asymmetric effects of online consumer reviews," Annals of Tourism Research, Elsevier, vol. 50(C), pages 67-83.
    22. Dina Mayzlin & Yaniv Dover & Judith A. Chevalier, 2012. "Promotional Reviews: An Empirical Investigation of Online Review Manipulation," NBER Working Papers 18340, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    23. Zhang, Tao & Li, Gang & Cheng, T.C.E. & Lai, Kin Keung, 2017. "Welfare economics of review information: Implications for the online selling platform owner," International Journal of Production Economics, Elsevier, vol. 184(C), pages 69-79.
    24. Carsten D. Schultz, 2016. "Insights from consumer interactions on a social networking site: Findings from six apparel retail brands," Electronic Markets, Springer;IIM University of St. Gallen, vol. 26(3), pages 203-217, August.

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