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01/24/2012 Kill Them With Kindness

It’s election season and in the U.S. we’re getting ready for a good solid year of negative advertising. It’s sad that it works so well. The negativity so easily spreads to the social channels. There we end up with a cacophony of anger and insults rather than any interesting interaction. As a result, one ends up disliking all of the candidates (which may be a good description of what’s happening with the GOP voters this year).

But what about brand and product advertising? Does negative advertising work there as well? Most of the negative advertising we see today is clearly aimed at young males. We usually see competing products or behavior painted as weak and mostly feminine (think car and beer commercials). 

One notable exception was the oft-discussed “I’m a Mac” campaign where Apple instead killed Microsoft with kindness. This unexpected, slightly patronizing but always empathetic spin probably did more to damage Microsoft’s reputation that all of it’s software bloat combined.

If you look at many of the smart brands that have integrated social media into their operations, you see the same thing. Rage, frustration and displeasure are met with patience, understanding and kindness. Most of the time, it works. There’s something about the social channel that brings out the complainer in all of us. Why that is would be great topic for a doctoral thesis.

So try this for a strategy: whether you’re arguing with someone about politics, sports or brands, or attempting to convince customers to use your products over your competitors, try killing them with kindness rather than with clubs and arrows. My guess is you’ll be both more successful and less frustrated.



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