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Michael DamphousseFeb 15, 2010 6:30:00 PM1 min read

Marketing Strategy of Going Negative -- Does Mudslinging Pay Off?

b2b sales leadsWitnessing the recent Scott Brown senatorial campaign in Massachussetts caused me to question the value of mudslinging -- I'm sure Coakley's staff is analyzing the same. 

A week after the election, the topic surfaced again after reading a recent article on HubSpot's blog, Are You Unwittingly Making This Disastrous Sales Mistake?, focused on turning a bland, salesy voicemail into a compelling voicemail.  Guest authored by Jill Konrath, who wrote the book Selling to Big Companies, it suggested language for more effective voice messages. And it sparked a controversial thread of blog comments led by Luke Brown, who signs his comment posts "Sales Pro", but the comments soon turned to mudslinging.

Let's analyze the marketing value.  Negative blog posts/comments that create controversy also create traffic.  Marketers love traffic.  So is the strategy of going negative worth the traffic it generates? 

Most controversy revolves around intelligent debate, but occasionally it slips (degenerates?) into ranting.  The former can be valuable, the latter ... just plain damaging.

  • Debate (for or against) = Traffic and Branding
  • Ranting (illogical, slanderous, or otherwise) = Traffic with Negative Branding

Tips to take advantage of a controversy:

  • Keep the controversy at the debate level
  • Don't get personal
  • Back up your statements
  • Take a stand on the issue, not a stand on the others in the discussion
  • Write a blog article that expands your thoughts on the debate, and post a link to it on the original site that started the debate (take some of the traffic)

The controversy that sparked this article had turned into a one-sided war from Luke, who wrote a scathing blog post on the topic and offered a $10k A-B challenge to Jill.  He even posted a negative Amazon review on her book and posed a question about voicemails on LinkedIn that assaulted her anew (then pulled it off after a few days.)  I'm sure his site traffic was up (I visited several times to try to find value), but I'm also sure his negative branding offset the traffic.

Healthy debate draws interest and showcases your thinking abilities. What about a personal crusade over a difference of opinion? Would you do business or hang out with a mud-slinger?