Companies naturally value the support of statistics and third party opinions that are favourable to their business. So, what can be wrong for a business if it achieves a high poll position in an independent survey?

Well, nothing, just as long as the survey is serious and credible.

Otherwise, seemingly positive feedback can backfire and reflect negatively on perception of the business concerned. In other words, it’s just bad PR.

When PR backfires

Cool Bananas 

In the political context, opinion surveys have recently come in for a lot of flak. The May 2015 General Election showed that polls could be pretty inaccurate, but there could be no argument about the seriousness of their aims. There is nothing frivolous about trying to gauge public voting intentions!

However, surveys can be roundly condemned if their remit is absurd and their methodology downright bizarre!

This view is very well argued by the excellent Mark Ritson in his recent Marketing Week article “CoolBrands’ bananas methodology is a stain on modern branding.” in which he claims that “CoolBrands has dirtied the marketing doorstep with its ridiculous list of the 20 ‘coolest brands’ once again.

This is well worth a read to see just how weird and not so wonderful some surveys can be. Ritson identifies illogical sampling, incomprehensible weighting of voting results and lack of meaningful and objective definition of the polling topic (what exactly is cool?) as some of the problems.

Rolex Firecracker

The final top 20 listings over the years have been very odd to say the least.

For instance, Ritson states that: “In terms of reliability, CoolBrands performs appallingly. There is no more stable brand in the marketing universe than Rolex. In fact, it is stable to the point of tedium. Over the last six years, starting in 2010, Rolex has been ranked by CoolBrands as outside the top 20, 4th, out of the top 20, 3rd, 9th and now out of the ranking again. Either Rolex’s cool status is shooting up and down like a badly made firecracker or something is wrong with the way CoolBrands measures cool.

He points out that major marketing media titles have “analysed the 2015 CoolBrands rankings like modern day soothsayers examining the entrails of a giant, recently deceased cock.” 

That may be, but with this kind of exercise there are really no winners.

  • Businesses that are left out of the top listing have been treated unfairly by the ridiculous survey methodology
  • Brands that have made it to the top can gain no real satisfaction because the survey is not credible
  • If a survey is not credible and in fact is a joke, then that perception can reflect on all the brands mentioned, winners or losers

Apparently, it was Phineas T. Barnum, the 19th century American circus owner, who coined the phrase “There's no such thing as bad publicity” and countless examples since have proved just how silly an idea that was. However, it’s not just major PR catastrophes requiring crisis management that need to be avoided.

Blame can be damaging but the wrong kind of praise, or in fact any kind of praise from the wrong source, can have a negative effect too. For instance, at time of writing, few would attach much value to a glowing testimonial about business integrity from FIFA!

BBI Brandboost is not a PR agency but public relations is a core competence. We have a long experience of implementing PR programmes for clients, frequently in tandem with web and social media services.

But we use this expertise in other ways too. For instance, we ensure that PR strategies, like search engine optimisation, are prioritised in all the online content we produce.

Contact BBI Brandboost on 01494 452600 or by email to discover how we could help you manage target audience perception of your business.