Definition of Negative Branding

Negative branding refers to a marketing strategy where a company presents its competitors in a negative light or highlights the disadvantages of their products or services. This approach is used to influence consumer perception and promote the superiority of the company’s own offerings. However, it can sometimes result in a negative backlash if done inappropriately, damaging the company’s reputation.


The phonetic pronunciation of the keyword “Negative Branding” is:/ˈnɛɡətɪv ˈbrændɪŋ/Neh-guh-tiv Brand-ing

Key Takeaways

  1. Negative branding can lead to customer distrust and damage a company’s reputation, making it difficult for the company to recover and regain its market share.
  2. Public perception of a brand plays a significant role in its success, and any negative branding can lead to a decline in brand loyalty, sales, and overall performance.
  3. Addressing and managing any negative branding is vital for a company’s growth; it is important to quickly identify the root cause, respond professionally, and implement the necessary strategies to improve the brand’s image.

Importance of Negative Branding

Negative Branding is an important digital marketing term because it highlights the potential impact of detrimental associations with a brand or company that can arise from various sources like bad publicity, poor customer experiences, or controversial messaging.

As digital platforms foster instant communication and wide reach, a negative brand image can spread rapidly, damaging the company’s reputation, customer relations, and financial performance.

Consequently, businesses must constantly monitor their digital presence, address issues proactively, and employ effective reputation management strategies to minimize the risks associated with negative branding and protect the brand’s overall value.


Negative branding is often utilized as a marketing strategy to address certain challenges that a business may face, such as fierce competition or the need to create a unique identity within the market. Its purpose is to build a distinctive image and competitive edge by showcasing a brand’s flaws or pointing out the issues in a competitor’s product or service.

In doing so, it can differentiate a business from its rivals and present itself as a more appealing choice. This approach isn’t simply about criticizing a competing brand, but rather demonstrating how one’s own brand can best address the identified shortcomings.

By emphasizing the consumer’s needs and highlighting how a particular product or service can cater to those needs more effectively than the competition, negative branding helps businesses to establish a stronger market position. In turn, this reinforces customer loyalty, attracts new clientele, and ultimately leads to increased sales and growth opportunities.

Examples of Negative Branding

Negative branding refers to a situation where a brand receives unfavorable attention or reputation due to various reasons such as poor customer experiences, controversial campaigns, or public relations mishaps. Here are three real-world examples:

United Airlines: In 2017, United Airlines faced a negative branding crisis when a passenger was forcibly removed from an overbooked flight. The video of the incident went viral on social media, leading to widespread outrage and criticism. People questioned the airline’s customer service and business practices, resulting in a temporary decline in their stock value and damage to their brand image.

BP Oil Spill: In 2010, British Petroleum (BP) faced a massive negative branding issue after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The disaster caused substantial environmental damage and affected local communities. BP was heavily criticized for its slow response and inadequate crisis management, tarnishing its brand reputation.

Pepsi’s Kendall Jenner Ad: In 2017, Pepsi released a controversial advertisement featuring model Kendall Jenner. The ad was widely criticized for trivializing the Black Lives Matter movement and social issues, resulting in a negative branding impact for the company. Pepsi quickly removed the ad and issued an apology, but the damage to their brand reputation had already been done.

FAQ: Negative Branding

What is negative branding?

Negative branding is the intentional or unintentional association of a brand with negative attributes in the minds of consumers. This can result from poor product quality, bad customer experiences, or marketing that portrays a brand in an unfavorable light. Negative branding can lead to consumer mistrust and can impact a brand’s reputation and overall market value.

Why is negative branding harmful to a business?

Negative branding can result in lost sales, damaged relationships with customers, or even legal implications. Unsatisfied customers may spread negative reviews, which can further damage a brand’s image. Additionally, businesses may need to invest heavily in rebranding efforts to regain their market credibility and customer trust.

How can a business overcome negative branding?

Businesses can take several steps to overcome negative branding. These may include addressing the root causes of negative perceptions, such as improving product quality or customer service, communicating transparently with customers, and investing in public relations or crisis management. Rebranding and repositioning the product or service may also help in distancing the business from negative associations and rebuilding consumer trust.

How can a company prevent negative branding in the first place?

Preventing negative branding involves regular monitoring of customer feedback and public opinion, taking proactive measures to address potential issues, and maintaining a strong brand identity. This may include monitoring social media and review platforms, engaging with customers to address their concerns, and ensuring high levels of product quality and customer service. Companies should also invest in creating a positive brand image through effective communication and marketing strategies that highlight their strengths and values.

Can negative branding be a useful strategy for rivals or competitors?

Although negative branding can be leveraged as a competitive strategy known as “attack marketing” or “competitive denigration,” it is a high-risk approach that can backfire and harm the company using it. Engaging in negative branding against competitors can lead to legal implications, tarnish the company’s reputation, and may be seen as unethical by consumers. Focusing on one’s own strengths and promoting a strong brand identity is a better long-term strategy.

Related Digital Marketing Terms

  • Reputation Management
  • Online Brand Detractors
  • Brand Disparagement
  • Defensive Marketing Strategies
  • Sentiment Analysis

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