Digital Strategy

How to successfully manage a Bad buzz?

Brands’ reputations only hang by a thread. Indeed, Social Media represent an opportunity for advertisers but they can also trigger reputation crisis. As we saw in our class with Mike Berry (Managing Director at Mike Berry Associates); companies can highly benefit from a buzz but they can also be greatly affected by a bad buzz. How to deal with a bad buzz and turn it to your advantage?

What is a Bad buzz?

A bad buzz is a word-of-mouth phenomenon that negatively impacts the brand’s image. This trend is mostly occurring on social Media. When poorly managed, a bad buzz can strongly deteriorate the overall brand reputation and thus impact the brand’s attractiveness and its commercial activity in the long run. This is why companies need to learn how to react when a bad buzz occurs.

Anticipating a Bad buzz

A study carried out by Le point in 2015 shows that companies globally fail to deal with bad buzz. Indeed, among the companies who try to communicate to ease a bad buzz; only 52% succeed in reducing the critics. This figure shows that it is mandatory to communicate when dealing with a bad buzz but that a strong defense strategy is needed.

In order to prevent bad buzz, companies need to follow content publication about their brand in real time. This can be done thanks to social media management platforms that include powerful watch tools such as Hootsuite, Linkfluence or Talkwalker. For Ryan Holmes, founder of Hootsuite, it is not sufficient to look at ones’ own brand; one must also extend the watch to competitors and all content related to its own sector of activity.

Dealing with a bad buzz

There is no golden rule; each situation needs to be analyzed in order to find the best solution. Bad buzz should be considered as a real crisis and be treated as such by companies.

First of all, companies need to identify the key influencers of the crisis, and their legitimacy on the subject. Once the influencers have been identified; the company should try to enter into a friendly dialogue with them and negotiate.

Companies must react to a bad buzz with empathy. Indeed, responsiveness is a key element when managing a bad buzz. Also, it is better to be proactive rather than reactive. The brand’s reply should be implemented like an advertising campaign; that is to say: Adapted to a specific target.

The brand should never delete the damaging content. This is likely to cause the opposite effect: its massive dissemination across multiple social platforms. The goal is not to stifle negative messages but to regulate them in order to prevent bad buzz.

In the case of “user generated content”; parodic content created by consumers to make fun of a brand; companies should react very carefully. Indeed, user generated content can sometimes benefit the brand.

Bad buzz: The example of Luxury brands

The case of Kidult and luxury brands illustrates how companies can react differently to a bad buzz. In 2013, many luxury brands have been victims of Kidult’s attacks. Kidult is a rebellious artist specialized in graffiti.  In order to protest against the use of street art by luxury brands; Kidult has vandalized luxury brands flagships. I will take the example of Marc Jacobs and Chanel and detail their different reactions to Kidult.

Kidult versus Marc Jacobs

When the brand first launched a street art collection in 2012; Kidult replied by tagging the word “ART” on the gallery window of their New York Flagship. Marc Jacob’s reaction was to sell a T-shirt with the picture of Kidult’s graffiti on it at the price of $686. As a result, Kidult copied the T-shirt with the inscription “Not art by Kidult”. The T-shirt was available on Amazon for $6.86.

Instead of trying to make a partnership with the artist; the brand chose to reply aggressively. As a result, Kidult continued his attacks; it is a never-ending process.

Kidult versus Chanel

In 2014, Chanel also launched a street art collection. During the fashion week, Kidult originally vandalized Chanel’s fashion show. He installed a fake Chanel trunk decorated with graffiti of the brand’s logo. In addition, people were invited to break the trunk’s windows in order to get a bag with Kidult’s graffiti on it.

Chanel decided to use the success of Kidult and support the artist instead of fighting with him. They encouraged the public of the fashion show to take pictures, and pose in front of the trunk. Karl Lagerfeld even wrote to Kidult to congratulate him for his work. Kidult posted the message he received from Karl Lagerfeld on Twitter. One can assume that the brand made an arrangement with the artist.

Chanel proactively managed this crisis situation. It seems that it even enhanced the brand’s reputation; the artistic event organized by Kidult created a positive synergy with the fashion show.


To conclude, this example shows that it is possible for brands to successfully manage a bad buzz and turn it into an opportunity. Even if there is no golden rule to handle a bad buzz; every situation can be solved with transparency, creativity and reactiveness. The goal is not to stifle negative messages but to regulate them in order to minimize negative impacts.

About the author

Céline Notelet

Céline Notelet