Do You Need A Scandal?


I am always amazed at how amazingly naive people are.

When Tiger Woods had his huge scandal last summer, I told many people this was going to make him a much bigger super star then ever before. Now Tiger is back to dominating the golf course and sponsors are coming back bigger than ever.

Kanye West became a household name with his statement of “George Bush hates black people” on national TV. A couple years after that, he came out and said the MTV music awards were rigged and staged when Britney beat him out. Kanye was the talk of the interweb last year when he interrupted Taylor Swift, claiming that she did not deserve the award because his friend BeyoncΓ© had “the best video of all time.” He does an amazing job of always keeping his name in the press.

Chris Brown beat up his girlfriend. This got national press. As a father of 2 daughters, every time I hear his song I think about what I would do to him if he beat up one of my daughters…. But he makes good music and remains on my shower/sing-a-long playlist. Ya, I know…

Britney stays in the headlines by being a complete white trash loser. But I like her and her music.

But before Tiger Woods, many years ago there was this NBA star named Michael Jordan who cheated on his wife…

Ok, but does the same apply to products?

When I was a kid (1982), I remember bottles of Tylenol had been tampered with and laced with cyanide. Many people died and it remained the top news story for months. Nobody was ever charged for the crime and it remains unsolved.

In 2000, Bridgestone Tires randomly blew up, mostly on the Ford Explorer (this example actually counts for Bridgestone and Ford). More then 200 deaths and 700 injuries occurred.

In 2007, Jet Blue made headlines for trapping customers on the runway for hours.

I could go on forever about people and products that have had so-called “bad press.”

But how many of these people/brands failed? How many of them are much bigger today than when their scandal hit? Now lecture me about how bad press isn’t good press.

96 thoughts on “Do You Need A Scandal?

    1. nysilly link farm

      I think bad press for a small company would be devastating. When you’re already big and credible, any press is good press.

      Bad press only works for small companies when its something controversial, i.e. remember the Ghetto-nopoly? Do you remember when Jeremy Schoemaker cheated on his wife, beat up a groupie, shot out some tires of plane he hijacked and locked all the passengers on-board and made them read all his blog posts with a cracked kindle screen??? πŸ˜›

      1. Blog Tyrant

        That is a really good point.

        As far as places where scandals don’t work: politics. Think about Bill Clinton. It finished his political career.

        At the moment we have the QANTAS engine blowing up. They are made by Rolls Royce and since that time every airline in the world that uses these engines has been saying “Its Rolls Royce’s fault” over and over again. I guarantee you the next wave of Jets won’t have RR engines.

        It totally depends on your product. If you are a sportsperson then cheating on your wife is no drama really because sportspeople think he’s a playa.

        I feel sorry for anyone who goes out and hurts people to get press.


    2. sasha_482

      A little bad press wouldn’t hurt IF you can quickly do something to counter it. But a scandal could be a major setback.

    1. WhoisDoyle

      I agree. Sometimes mistakes are unavoidable. Brands with good track records tend to bounce back more quickly than those consistently broiled in a lot of negative publicity.

      1. WhoSaysWhat01

        The visibility that bad press offers does not automatically translate to fans or customers. If bad press is unavoidable then so be it but nothing beats a good reputation.

    1. enajyram00

      The Enron scandal serves as a reminder that unethical practices can eventually lead to a company’s downfall.

  1. Ricardo Solon

    the antennagate from apple… apple sold more iphones then never lol … facebook and privacy lool facebook has more pageviews then never lolll only the media care about those stories … real people do not care … of course you need to handle bad press but overall most brands survive !!!

  2. Georgie

    I had to double check that this wasn’t a guest post. I hate for this to be a combo-breaker comment between all the nuthuggers but ARE YOU HIGH?!

    You think the Tynenol murders and Bridgestone tyres exploding are good for those companies *bottom line*, with big brands developed over many years. You don’t tink some old Granny never bought Tylenol again because of it? You don’t think the recall cost J&J a fortune?

    I agree that any press is good for unknown companies with no brand and stuff like that but your examples were awful.

      1. GQmeansGeek

        And don’t forget Chris Brown. I sure hope he learned his lesson from that scandal. Only wimps beat women.

  3. I dunno

    Tiger is not back to dominating the golf course. He is currently mired in the worst streak in his career.

    As far as Tylenol and Bridgestone go…You ask “How many of them are much bigger today than when their scandal hit?” My answer: Both of these companies are. However, they are not as big as they could have been had these scandals not hit. These two lost money in the short and long term because of these scandals.

    Tiger, too.

    1. spameater

      I agree. I don’t think anyone would want a scandal for self-promotion. Kanye West is an exception, of course.

    2. melg

      Some of those who have been embroiled in controversies and bad publicity are able to bounce back while others fade away. That’s the reality of every scandal.

    3. Kyle

      I kind of agree with your statement. You know…. you could argue both sides of this. Maybe the answer is… a scandal has its pros and cons for businesses. We’re certainly talking about these things, years after the fact.

  4. Mike

    I wouldn’t agree with you about any press being good press… at least for Tiger. His endorsements took a huge hit, and him and his endorsements have not come back, yet.

  5. Angelo

    Bad press is certainly bad if the brand can’t take the hit. For a small business or someone who isn’t a multi-platinum artist it can be the death of them.

    1. Alan Alan

      You can’t just let bad press slip and stay into people’s consciousness. Most of the time, you’d need to counter it. A waste of time and money.

    2. SmallBiz Sue

      That’s true. Any hint of scandal concerning the products I’m offering could be really bad for business.

  6. JB

    As soon as BP had its disaster and the stock plummeted I got in. Everything that “happens” creates an opportunity for someone else. You just have to be ready to capitalize on it.

    1. Nicole Burns

      I guess it depends on the potential and ability of the company to deal well with bad press to stage a comeback.

  7. Daily Deal

    Agreed….im about to do some chalk marketing..that alone maybe piss off some people but im hoping to get a story about it locally.

    I was actually part of a site that..was causing some local issues do to gossip…and 1 day it hit the all the news stations and print in my area. as BAD as the press even made the 1st page of AOL for a day…for about 2wks because of the press..we were getting about 40k daily uniques.

  8. AnnieP78

    Good or bad publicity is still publicity. But when mired in a scandal or any form of negative press, it’s best to do some immediate damage control especially if people’s lives and safety are at stake.

    1. ExclaimedIdeas

      This is like the other side of the coin of yesterday’s post. So, have you gone through some scandals of your own, Jeremy?

  9. Husher50

    Scandals can test a person or a company’s resilience. They should not be actively sought but when they happen, it’s best to ride the wave and try fix the problem.

  10. AnnieLouJ12860

    The Chicago Tylenol murders was out of J&J’s control but it certainly tested their crisis management skills. Was the extortionist/killer charged?

    1. MVZP_01

      Anything can happen to any person or business. It’s the ability to survive the onslaught of bad press and repair the damage that separates the successful people/companies from the rest.

      1. WhateverWorks

        It takes time and a lot of resources to fix a problem any scandal would cause. If bad publicity comes, then deal with it but to actually need or want it is too risky.

    2. Willow

      I remember that incident very well. It gave us quite a scare. My mom didn’t buy Tylenol again for a good long while.

  11. F2Xsites

    I know I don’t. :) Let others attract all the scandals they want. I’ll be much better off watching from the sidelines.

  12. David

    I once read an old story, maybe it’s fake in and of itself, about someone complaining to their agent that the press was talking bad about them. The agent replied that they shouldn’t worry about it. It’s when the press STOPS talking about you that you should worry.

  13. internetFTW

    At the end of the day, it all depends on the nature of the scandal itself. People have long memories especially when it comes to unethical behaviors and gross negligence. Inviting any form of scandal for publicity’s sake is a huge risk.

    1. John Dillon

      I doubt if there’s any sane person who’d take the risk of losing money, and possibly his/her business, for the sake of publicity.

  14. Ara600_m1

    I think no person or company has a built-in immunity to potential scandals. But many manage to avoid any form of bad press by knowing and managing risks involved in their respective businesses.

    1. Jason S.

      That’s why it pays to walk the extra mile to mitigate risks. It could save you a lot of headache.

    1. New Bee

      I’ve always wanted to attend the Affiliate Summit. I hope I get to win those freebies you’re referring to. πŸ˜€

  15. ILoveMemes

    As long as celebrities’ scandals don’t impact other people’s lives in a bad way then I think it’s okay. But for products or services, I’d rather purchase those I know I could trust.

    1. PokeYerFace

      Good point, Jeremy. Still, I believe in karma so a scandal isn’t something I’d wish even for my enemies.

  16. BearPile

    Reading bad press and actually experiencing it are two entirely different things. I don’t mind bad publicity as long as I’m not in the middle of it.

    1. Feeding Frenzy

      Much like all kinds of problems, a scandal offers an opportunity to evaluate current practices that hinder you or your company from progressing. If there’s not much loss involved then I’d say that it’s not entirely a bad thing.

  17. Fields of Clover

    For as long as the reason for the bad press isn’t something that would put other people’s lives in danger then, yes, I don’t think it’s totally bad.

  18. B.Logan

    Anything can happen so it’s best to be prepared to handle all sorts of problems such as bad press.

  19. AurorMine

    Any form of scandal can serve as a test of a company’s resiliency. It could be a wake up call for change.

  20. Melanie Johnson

    While negative publicity is not altogether a bad thing, it could still undo or undermine your work.

  21. Tool

    Reputation management can mitigate risks of bad press getting out of hand. It could mean additional cost for a company but it’s well worth the investment.

  22. TYCP Magazine

    When it comes to celebrities, it really depends on which celebrity it is.

    Chris Brown’s career definitely did get hit in a negative way. He even said it on his own site that radio stations weren’t playing his songs & literally begged his fans to request his songs. When he would release singles, all anyone went on about was how he hit Rhianna & that he didn’t deserve his career.

    Daryl Hannah claimed she was blacklisted in Hollywood which is why her career hasn’t been as hot as it was back in the 80’s/early 90’s.

    Britney Spears was a huge mess in 2007/2008, but her album “Blackout” still did well with hardly ANY publicity. “Circus” also did really well & even broke a few records [she has since then cleaned up her act though.]

    Madonna has had lord knows how many scandals & she still makes bank to this day.

    I think if the fans are loyal enough, they will buy albums, movie tickets, ect. regardless of what the celebrity did or whether they get good publicity or not.

  23. Mark Mead

    Does anyone watch Madmen? Of course you do… Remember the episode when the team hired two women to get in a fight over the last Christmas ham? Don Draper believes that any press is good press.

  24. BigMoneyBrooklyn

    Kanye can do no wrong. He acts like an @ss, but people keep buying his music. No one cares. His product overrides his stupid behavior. Same with Britney. The companies listed, on the other hand, had to spend a fortune in crisis PR to get past those fiascos. Those disasters could have sunk those companies.

  25. Almira Keefe

    Think about a few more pros that have finessed some recent disasters. Remember Richard Richard Branson of Virgin and John Armitt of Network Rail’s response after the Grayrigg rail disaster? And what about US Airways handling of the media after their crash landing on the Hudson river? US Air finessed that into practically a story of preparation, featuring a highly trained pilot and staff. US Air looked amazing… even though they crashed into the Hudson River!

  26. Rod S. Lee

    A few of these companies just flat out lost trust. I wonder how long it took Tylenol to get back on track? And how the hell would they spin that today? Can you imagine the digital slaughter they would receive today? Geez… They would have to get a new name.

  27. WilmaP

    I think that news is so sensationalized these days, that the press just feeds off of anything. It’s almost to an advantage, like you said, to have a problem. Totally backwards.

    1. Cristina Dy

      I have to agree! But his lovely ex-wife sure has benefited from the scandal. She is all over Perez Hilton. I bet you we’ll see her in Playboy in no time!

  28. Kevin A

    Maybe the question should be… Do you need a contrived publicity stunt, where no one gets hurt, and where you can control the outcome? πŸ˜‰

    1. Ron Hekier

      Notice that Jeremy left it open when he asked “OK, but does the same apply to products?” I think in most cases it does not.
      The foundation of an airline company’s success lies with the trust passengers have in the safety of that airline. So when a ValueJet plane took a dive into the Everglades killing a bunch of people, that erodes trust in the brand.
      The success of an entertainer, e.g. Tiger Woods, Kanye West, Chris Brown, etc., lies to a significant extent in the publicity they generate.
      It also depends on the extent of the scandal. If Tiger Woods was kidnapping children and forcing them to be a captive in his cabin for years at a time, the response would be different than it was to his promiscuity with consenting adults.

  29. Medical Accessories

    These are bigtime scandals! The people involved in these issues were actually not thinking. Come on, they are “famous”. One wrong move will give them a once in lifetime fame, but what they did are entertaining to some people.

  30. Richard

    Tiger woods is not dominating. He hasn’t won at all this year. He’s definitely got fewer sponsors as well. You lost me in the first sentence.


    Who doesn’t like a good scandal?

    Honestly though, I can’t think of any companies off the top of my head that lost or gained my business because of one.

    I have recently filled up at BP though, if that counts as not giving a shit about bad publicity.

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