A focus on positive benefits and the avoidance of marketing negative associations characterize most marketing campaigns. However, there are times when a brand or product must communicate about how it is overcoming a negative, such as obesity, acne, dark spots, and aging to generate interest and appeal

In the July – September edition of The Singapore Marketer, we tackled these challenges by sharing four tips on marketing a negative to maximize consumer interest and appeal.

Based on a meta-analysis examining more than 850 marketing messages across 16 categories – ranging from personal care to food products – we identify the key drivers of success.

Four tips on marketing the negatives

Address aspirations

The research revealed that the most successful marketing communications provide a value proposition that addresses a need or desire. Therefore, it is important that anti-ageing messages focus on the ability to maintain younger and healthier looking skin.

This is an important proposition to make, and is often critical for success, but this positive message may be too generic and fail to establish differentiation in such a crowded market if used on its own.

Our research revealed several strategies for making positive messages resonate more strongly when addressing a negative issue.

Be specific

To be effective, messages need to be specific in the value being promised. In many cases, specific benefits are positively framed, such as the moisturizing quality of lotions or the vitamins included in a food.

However, when the products are designed to overcome negative traits, such as anti-aging creams preventing wrinkles or anti-virus software protecting a computer, the negatives must be acknowledged.

If the message of overcoming a negative is too general, it runs the risk of creating far reaching adverse associations, something that marketers aim to avoid.

By clearly describing the tangible benefit(s) of a product, relevance is established and thereby a connection with consumers is created.

Stay neutral

When possible, the negative element of a message should be addressed in a neutral fashion.

Saying “Banish your cracked and saggy skin” will almost certainly alienate potential consumers who do not want to be reminded so explicitly about the symptoms they are hoping to prevent.

Addressing the symptoms in as neutral of a way as possible, by saying something along the lines of “Reduce signs of ageing” ensures the marketing message is respectful and avoids offending the consumer.

Be aspirational

Lastly, the negative association should be linked with a positive benefit that represents the aspirations of the consumer when possible.

In the anti-ageing example, the aspiration is to maintain young and healthy looking skin. An effective way of connecting to a positive, therefore, could be “Effectively combats wrinkles for young and healthy looking skin”.

This is preferred over simply preventing the negative symptom of wrinkles as it also creates the link to a positive outcome of healthy looking skin.

It is important to note that there may not be space to address both the negative concern and the positive aspiration in one message. In such cases, the positive aspiration can be included as a secondary message or brought to life through creative copy or imagery.

Especially in today’s competitive market, creating a meaningful connection with consumers is critical. While a key to creating and maintain this connection is staying positive, there are times when a brand simply must address negative symptoms.

By addressing the specific negative element in a neutral fashion while linking it to a positive aspiration, powerful and lasting connections with consumers can be fostered while minimizing potential negative associations.