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Keep Your Enemies Close

Managing the people who dislike your brand may be more important than hugging your biggest fans.

Brand managers may dream of customers relating to their products as committed partners or best friends, but what if a brand portfolio offers rocky marriages and one-night stands?

How, for example, should the New York Philharmonic react to news that a large percentage of first-time ticket buyers felt “stalked” by their customer service calls? What about frequent flyers’ mixed—and often negative—emotions about their airline of choice?

A study by Professor Susan Fournier—named one of the nation’s most influential researchers by The Atlantic—and doctoral candidate Claudio Alvarez (’13) calls for a new science of negative brand relationships.

“Negative brand relationships are in fact more common than positive relationships,” they write in the Journal of Consumer Psychology. As negative brand relationships cause damage to both consumers and companies, Fournier and Alvarez note that “managing negatives may actually be more important for brand equity development than cultivating positive connections with brands.”

Want consumers to love your brand? Read more about Fournier’s theory of brand relationships.