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Bad News (About Brands) Travels Fast

March 22, 2011

More than one-quarter of US consumers (26%) say they are more likely to tell family, friends, and coworkers about a bad experience with a product or service than a good one, according to LoyaltyOne's COLLOQUY report.

Such consumers—defined as "Madvocates" in the report—are predisposed to negative word-of-mouth (WOM) practices after suffering bad experiences with brands.

Interestingly, loyal consumers are even more likely than the general population to sour on brands: 31% of "WOM Champions," consumers who are active promoters for the brands they love, say they are more likely to share a bad experience with a brand than a good one.

"One lesson is clear, hell hath no fury like a Champion scorned," said COLLOQUY Managing Partner Kelly Hlavinka. "Since 'Madvocacy' is an attitude that nearly one-third of all Champions share and are willing to act upon, loyalty marketers must accept their responsibility for the impact their programs can have on generating both positive and negative word of mouth."

Below, other findings from the report, Urban Legends: Word-of-Mouth Myths, Madvocates and Champions, from COLLOQUY.

Madvocacy, by Demographic Segment

The propensity to share negative WOM is present across all demographic groups in roughly similar proportions. Affluent consumers (30%) are the most likely to spread bad news about a brand, followed by young adults (25%) and women (25%).

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  • by Nick Stamoulis Tue Mar 22, 2011 via web

    It's unfortunate that a bad experience is more likely to be shared than a good one. But it's a sad truth that the negative sticks out in our minds more than the positive. Rarely do consumers rave about a brand/company unless they had a truly outstanding experience. It just means that companies have to always be on their A game, and know that one bad experience can quickly spread negative associations about the brand.

  • by Dan Soschin Tue Mar 22, 2011 via web

    I agree with Nick; companies can coast along for a while providing good service and not receive any accolades... then they have a bad customer review and it looks disproportionate. That's why it's important to encourage your advocates/fans to support you. A successful company will have their advocates come to their defense in the face of a bad review.

  • by Dhana@Loyaltics Tue Mar 22, 2011 via web

    Companies have always felt Loyalty AKA Brand advocacy is about 'reward programs' or 'point systems'. Now they are starting to realize, it is not.

    Brand Advocates, who spread the positive WOM, are a fan of your product & services, because of the positive experience they've had.

    Classical example: A celebrity endorsing a product only during their contract period. They are not Brand Advocates (nor Brand Ambassadors) as they are claimed to be, but they are 'paid' to do so.

  • by fourlegsdoctor Thu Mar 24, 2011 via web

    In practice it has always been human nature to remember and voice negative or bad experiences. Unfortunately all of us are creatures of some habits and the truth is we are just rebroadcasting the same way that radio, TV and the media in general reports "news!" Therefore we should not be at all surprised when this occurs. The reason why? When someone purchases goods or services from a brand that they have had a long-term continuous relationship they take it totally for granted when the typical purchase outcome is achieved via the purchase. They just go along their merry way without sharing with anyone that they are pleased or satisfied let's say that their coffee tastes the way they expected it to for the umpteenth consecutive time. This is perceived brand expectation or loyalty. However, let the goods or service vary in it's expected delivery and you will hear about it in short order. The surprise seems to be that no matter how many times the brand got it right, the customer seems to only choose to broadcast the unexpected break from their expected norm of the brand.

  • by Mike Thu Mar 24, 2011 via web

    Thanks for the post.

    I think your overview of the report is clear and to the point. The visual aids really helped me understand this group which is often refered to as "badvocates".

    My one question is related to the "why". I wonder why these groups are less likely to advocate for a good cause as opposed to simply providing the stats. Maybe this is harder to measure, but would be very useful information. What do you think?


  • by Joe Buhler Sat Mar 26, 2011 via web

    How about substituting "More than" with "Only" in the first sentence....."? Would give a totally different, but also less alarmist slant to the story. In travel, the industry with which I am most familiar with, a large majority of postings on sites like TripAdvisor are actually about positive experiences.

  • by Mare Sun Mar 27, 2011 via mobile

    I'm a consumer and will definitely warn people against what I consider a bad company to deal with. However, I disagree that consumers do an about face at the first misstep. I promote the good, and, am more vocal with the bad- because that means I truly believe the company gives exceptionally poor service, misrepresents what they offer or simply scam you for your money.

  • by Lucy F Sun Mar 27, 2011 via mobile

    Good article on interesting research that validates intuition and common sense. And I don't.say that lightly -- I'm a fan of research. What this.means to marketers is that the most important complaints to resolve are the ones that start with something like ' I'm a long time customer ....' The more that customers believe they.can contact you and get satisfaction, the better you can deal with this truth of.human nature.

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