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So I wrote here a few weeks ago lamenting a drive-by TechCrunch article that dubbed the tool we built "the new worst thing about email." Since then, we've gotten write-ups in Business Insider, Newsweek and the Washington Post, along with several great blogs.

Here's the thing: nothing came close to matching the wave of high-converting traffic driven by that initial hyperbole-laden anti-Rebump rant - even WaPo tweeting out to their 2.6 Million followers.

Is concluding that bad press reaches our target audience more effectively than rave reviews silly? Has anyone else had this experience? Has anyone actually aimed to get more bad press on purpose?

Just askin'.

  • MB

    Morgan Brown

    over 5 years ago #

    You should check out "Trust Me, I'm Lying: Confessions of a True Media Manipulator" by Ryan Holiday. He talks all about how he generated tons of artificial negative press for American Apparel and other projects on purpose, with great results.

  • SE

    Sean Ellis

    over 5 years ago #

    Hey Ezra, I purposely amplify any negative sentiment about "growth hacking"... Most of the people who hate growth hacking tell me that they prefer a term like "agile marketing." This Google Trend graph seems to show that all the hate is helping to propel growth hacking into the limelight. http://www.google.com/trends/explore#q=growth%20hacking%2C%20agile%20marketing&cmpt=q

    • JG

      Jim Gray

      over 5 years ago #

      I hate "agile marketing."

      Growth hacking is very buzzwordy, but at least it provides a reasonable description of what it's ideally supposed to be.

  • JP

    Jacob Pastrovich

    over 5 years ago #

    Re: Bad Press on Purpose
    I don't think anyone shoots themselves in the foot on purpose, nor do I think anyone should gather people around with the purpose of shooting themselves in the foot just so they could do it in front of a live studio audience. Metaphors aside, I don't think it's advisable to get bad press on purpose. You should always strive to get press, and from time to time the bad will come with the good. The old adage, "all press is good press" reigns true. It's just a matter of how you spin that bad press.

  • DL

    Dylan La Com

    over 5 years ago #

    Not all startups can spur the the kind of emotional response that Rebump has, though I think many would love to. If anything, people's emotional reactions galvanize them to choose sides, which may be a factor in why the bad press led to high conversions. Anyway, nice job!

  • LE

    Lisa Enckell

    over 5 years ago #

    I think a good example of this is American Apparel. They are being very provocative, and can even start their negative PR themselves (start social media storms and more). I'd look deeper into what they're doing to learn more about this.

    • LE

      Lisa Enckell

      over 5 years ago #

      Sorry this page hadn't loaded when I wrote this comment, saw that others had recommended the same.

  • ND

    Nate Desmond

    over 5 years ago #

    PT Barnum used negative press to great effect. When, for instance, his fake mermaid exhibit started to become less popular, Barnum wrote an anonymous letter to the editor claiming that the mermaid was a fake. "In fact", he claimed, "the mermaid is a whale bone and India rubber automaton."

    In other cases, he intentionally fueled the outrage of his detractors: http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1499&dat=19480707&id=JUQaAAAAIBAJ&sjid=MSUEAAAAIBAJ&pg=2250,2812210

  • BP

    Brandon Pindulic

    over 5 years ago #

    I have never created bad publicity on purpose on behalf of a company that I started or worked on, but I have a few stories that are sort of related, but I found them to be pretty funny..

    Just to preface this one: I'm a diehard Mets fan. So, I was thinking about the upcoming season back in October, and I realized that the Mets were losing 2 key players (Matt Harvey and Marlon Byrd) and were probably only going to pick up 2 more quality players (they picked up another Pitcher in Bartolo Colon and an OF in Curts Granderson and Chris Young, so my prediction was sort of correct). I also guesstimated they'd spend $30MM this offseason. So, I figured, how the hell will the get better? They'll just be adding players they lost, so I proposed this Q to their lead blogger, who put it out on MetsBlog.com (a highly trafficked site).

    This was my question: http://metsblog.com/metsblog/how-do-the-mets-improve-with-just-30-million-and-no-harvey/ (unfortunately, they changed from Disqus to Livefyre, so the comments are no longer present. Just another first world problem)

    So, where am I going with this?

    A fan read my post and took my GUESSTIMATE that the Mets were "only" spending $30MM this offseason (management said they could spend up to $45MM at the time) and he decided to express his anger...

    This is part of the story: http://metsblog.com/metsblog/how-do-the-mets-improve-with-just-30-million-and-no-harvey/

    TL;DR: I asked a blogger a question and made an estimate on something I had no idea was even remotely close, and a crazy fan decided to send death threats to the NY Mets front office and said some pretty nasty, alarming things to a few players and one of the players' girlfriend...so what does this have to do with growth hacking? Absolutely nothing. Just a random story about how bloggers DO NOT do fact checking but often put info out there in such a way to make it seem official. As Ryan Holiday warns, do with this information as you please, but be careful!

    I have a few other stories that are probably better than the one I just shared, but I may have to save 'em for my blog (shameless plus: brandonpindulic.co :)...stories such as my first "viral" hit...and no, it wasn't using FB's open graph, it was MYSPACE

  • EH

    Ezra HaLevi

    over 5 years ago #

    Or just amplifying the better-converting negative articles using a tool like Outbrain.

  • YV

    Yana VV

    over 5 years ago #

    When Clear app from Realmac Software launched their change in plans - to make the app free for a few days, they really pissed off tens of thousands of users who'd paid quite a lot for all their versions. The story boomed on all media: http://www.theverge.com/2014/2/18/5420686/realmac-software-makes-clear-free

    We decided to make a fun #brandbattle and challenge them through a negative PR that could benefit both: http://cl.ly/image/463u392V3H2F Although very light and funny, they didn't decide to pick on the battle and we did not get any big PR buzz as expected.

    Negative PR can bite you back but worst is if it dies off.

  • DM

    Dan Medcraft

    over 5 years ago #

    I think this kind of self-driven publicity is very, very risky. Depending on what exactly the bad publicity is exactly, it can sometimes be very hard to control the spin. It's like the stories you hear about the guy who decides to play a prank on his friends by posting a Facebook status claiming that he and his girlfriend have broken up, and all his mates come out of the woodwork saying it's a good thing, because everyone hated her anyway.

    Or, the alternate risk, is that it looks over produced and too slick, people recognise that you've done it deliberately and you look pathetic and desperate in the meantime.

    The real skill here isn't about whether you can get bad press on purpose, it's about whether you can make bad press good press.

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