Herman Cain's Chief of Staff smoking a cigarette
On top of this, there have been reports of sexual harassment charges made against him during his time at the National Restaurant Association. Both of these negative publicity events are bringing him more attention and awareness, but the question remains - is it the type of awareness that will get him votes come primary day? One thing is true, it was handled poorly by his crisis management team as highlighted by this US News & World Report article by Lauren Fox.
For me, the most interesting thing is the deliberateness with which Mark Block takes a drag on the cigarette. I think it was an attempt to target a certain segment of the population that are heavy smokers. Also, as Tamara stated in the discussion, "his platform is based on less government and less regulation which may appeal to the smokers who are voters and who feel they should not lose their right to smoke in public places." Since it isn't Cain in the commercial smoking, I think there would have been minimal damage if they had apologized, aknowledge that smoking in the ad was a bad image (at least for kids) and pulled it. The sexual harassment charges, not so much.
Someone also mentioned about President Bill Clinton and the negative publicity surrounding his sex scandal. There are a few differences that should be highlighted. At the time of the scandal, President Clinton was in his second term of office and essentially a lame duck. He was not up for re-election, but Vice President Al Gore was the soon-to-be Democratic nominee for the office of President. The real question for Clinton's sex scandal is how much did it damage Gore's campaign - not only in the negative publicity it generated for Clinton and Democrats as a whole but also in the lack of campaigning that Clinton did for Gore because of the sex scandal. In an attempt to not taint Gore with the negative publicity of Clinton, did the Democratic party sacrifice the the good publicity and attitudes Clinton may have generated for voters? We will never know.
Speaking of sex scandals, Adam and Lindsay both discussed Tiger Wood's situation. I think Lindsay made an excellent point with the comment that those who are idolized and respected by children have the most to lose, hence why Tiger has been more effected by the negative publicity than let's say Kobe Bryant. I do believe that if Tiger can ever preform his magic on the golf course again, people will forget completely, and he will be back on top, though the negative publicity impacted his Q-Score and his bank balance in a big way.
Abercrombie & Fitch this past spring sold a padded bikini top for young girls that riled up some blogging moms (thanks Amanda for this example!). Did this negative publicity impact the consumers of the bikini tops? Most likely - not, but who it may have influenced was the moms or the purchasers. In family situations, the intended user of a product doesn't always have the final say on what is purchased for them to use. Usually, the purchaser is a parent - maybe a mom - who may agree with the negative publicity that this bikini top was just a bit too grown-up for an 8 year old.
Several of you wrote about the debacle with Toyota and its accelerator, someone mentioned they wouldn't buy a Toyota because of this. An Op-Ed piece from the New York Times explains that the vast majority of incidents were related to driver error, floor mats or accelerators sticking - not to Toyota and faulty electronics, but this isn't what people remember. Faultless Wendy's sales floundered for months after the faked finger in the chili incident that received nationwide attention. Both of these are good examples of how negative - and sometimes untrue or half-true - publicity can have a long term effect on a company.
Amber pointed to the negative press associated with the latest in Netflix business moves as an example of bad publicity not enhancing a company's brand image, increasing customers or building awareness. The same could be said of the Falcon's as Jasmine mentioned related to Michael Vick. It took several seasons for the Falcons to rebuild interests after Vick was arrested. As luck would have it - or bad luck that is - Vick was the focus of the Falcons ticket campaign that season. Until last year, the Falcons went back to focusing on the team as a whole and resisting placing focus on any single player. Michael Vick, himself, is an example of someone trying rebuild and remake their brand image.
Someone mentioned about Mel Gibson and Tom Cruise's negative publicity. In both cases, neither have had very successful projects nor been offered as many since their very public breakdowns. The negative publicity for both related to their outbursts (Cruise jumping on Oprah's sofa and Gibson using racial slurs while drunk) have damaged their careers - at least in the short term. On the other hand, Charlie Sheen made a fair bit of money off his public breakdown as did Two and A Half Men gaining ratings during the premier of this season.
I would be remiss if I didn't talk about the Super Bowl Halftime incident of a few years ago involving Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake. Many in the PR world speculated that it was a publicity stunt meant to drive buzz about Janet and her soon-to-be released CD. MTV promoted on their webpage earlier in the day - be ready for a shocking halftime. Shocked we were. After which the blame game started.
There were five major players in this incident - and the blame ended up squarely, rightly or wrongly, on one of them. The NFL blamed CBS since the network was in charge of the entertainment. CBS blamed MTV since it was the "Halftime show presented by MTV," and said there was no 'malfunction' in the halftime show planned as far as they knew. MTV turned to Justin and Janet - and then placed the official apology in Janet's lap. She ended up being the one who took the heat (even though she didn't rip the piece off), going on MTV and its website with a recorded message apologizing for the 'malfunction.' She was subsequently asked to not appear or perform at the Grammy's a few weeks after the SuperBowl where she was scheduled to be part of a tribute and highlight more of her new CD.
Where was Justin in all of this? He actually apologized on his own through his publicist the night of the SuperBowl. He then went under ground until the Grammy's, and when he appeared there it was with his mom as his date. Upon winning, he apologized again. Why didn't MTV go after him for the more public apology they demanded from Janet? MTV needed him, he didn't MTV - but Janet did.
Amanda linked an article concerning the post's topic from the American Express Open Forums. "Is any Publicity Good Publicity?" by John Mariotti is worth a read and summarizes our topic fairly well.