How to profit from positive branding when negativity sells


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Are we more negative now than we were a generation ago? The stats prove we are. Psychological research and studies reveal something interesting – being negative is easier. Our brains are wired to be biased towards the dark side. Our experience of “bad” makes a stronger impression on us than our experiences of “good”. It’s almost like we take happiness for granted, it’s something we implicitly deserve, while unpleasantness is something we’re victims of.

There’s a very real reason for this – the brain holds onto negativity as a means of self-preservation. Bad experiences call for red lights and warning signs, a far stronger reaction than you’d get from happy experiences.

Why positivity in branding can be difficult

Negativity sells. There’s no doubt about that. Look at the media – every bad headline, every fearful expose, every scandalous review sells. Through branding and selling, we can exploit the brain’s explicit desire to highlight danger so that it can increase its chances of self-preservation. That’s not saying that by reading a negative news article you’re improving your longevity, it’s actually quite the opposite. However, from a very primal perspective, the brain is wired to want to know where the “bad” is so that it can avoid any potential dangers and prevent its own suffering.

That’s why it’s easier to sell by hijacking people’s fear response – buy insurance, just in case, pay for on-demand legal services, because what if, while these tactics make a fair point, they use fear and negativity to sell.

So, what positive branding? What if you don’t want to hijack this primal instinct in your target market’s brain in order to profit? What if you could be wildly successful and brand yourself in a way that inspires people to take action because they want to and not out of fear of what might happen if they don’t? Welcome to authentic marketing. It’s the meeting point between negative and positive branding.

Authenticity in the workplace and as part of positive branding

Many people experience the term “authenticity” as being yourself. No filter, no pretense, and you get to “call ‘em as you see ‘em”. In other words, if you have an unpopular opinion you’re allowed to share that and everyone has to understand that despite offending people, you’re “authentic”. This is false.

Authenticity is the glorious meeting point between negative and positive branding. It means that your actions truly reflect the persona you’re promoting. It does not excuse poor behavior. It does not justify crude or offensive branding. It means you have to take the time to sit and think about your brand’s ethics. Choose your ethos – what positive morals do you feel strongly aligned with?

What kind of positive effect does your brand hope to make in the world? Authenticity means holding your brand accountable for that. Each and every action and word that comes from your brand must uphold your personal ethos. That ethos is allowed to clash with popular opinions but it must be pre-decided, it must be public, and each action from your brand must align with that purpose you’ve set for your brand.

What is toxic positivity?

Toxic positivity is what happens when you try to come across as positive but you’re not actually aligned with that ethos. It’s sugary and it lacks authenticity – it doesn’t move your brand towards your company’s ethos.

Toxic positivity often gas-lights the suffering of others and also of ourselves and it immediately alienates your audience. Gas-lighting is a fairly new term in psychology, it is used to refer to situations where we undermine the suffering of others for the sake of being “positive”. It fails to acknowledge the negativity, pain, or suffering that exists.

If you want to use positive branding as part of your strategy, you have to avoid toxic positivity. Make sure your message never doubts or undermines someone else’s experience. Never sugar-coat the world for the sake of being cheerful.

How to use positive branding to drive your success

Lean on the concepts of authenticity in marketing to remain positive. That means clearly defining the way in which you want to inspire others. If your brand is involved in charity work, focus on the difference you are working towards by clearly communicating your goals to your potential sponsors and including in that, the focus on what their help will achieve rather than driving home the guilt and shame of what will happen if they don’t help you. Keep your goals, your authentic ethos, at the forefront of every single message, communication, and marketing campaign. Positive branding starts with a good business name. Do you have a good idea of what you’re wanting? Just battling to nail it perfectly? Try our business name generator. It takes the stress out of the search.

Grant Polachek
Grant Polachek is the Head of Branding at Inc 500 company, the world's #1 naming platform, with 25,000+ customers from early-stage startups across the globe to the largest corporations including Nestle, Philips, Hilton, Pepsi, and AutoNation.


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