Rumors are great tools for branding and marketing. The saying goes that “even bad publicity is still publicity. “Many celebrities have gotten more famous from rumors they started themselves.
I’ll share two rumors that directly dictated how I personally dealt with a substance or product. Both were false but the damage had been done.
Rumor 1, 80’s college basketball star, Len Bias died of a cocaine overdose after using the drug for the very first time.
As a 10 year old hearing this, I was extremely afraid of cocaine. Never used it, never tried it, never sold it, never even held it in my hand, I don’t know what it feels like. Len Bias was actually a constant user of coke and either got a bad batch or used too much that night. the story of an overdose was true. But the part about it being his first time was made up by publicists protecting his reputation and the reputation of the Boston Celtics who had drafted Mr. Bias as the number 1 overall pick earlier that day. Whatever the reason, this rumor served as a scared straight episode for me. I hate that he died but I’m thankful to whoever started this rumor, it shaped my life and transformed many forks in the road into easy decisions for me. The rumor killed the cocaine brand and took me off of the potential customer list forever.
Rumor 2, Kentucky Fried Chicken is making chickens in a lab or feeding them extreme steroids making them no longer able to be classified as chickens. And the people who govern this stuff stopped them from using the word chicken in their name and that’s why they started just using KFC instead. I haven’t eaten KFC since, just wasn’t taking that chance. While I don’t know how they grow or make their chickens, the name change was simply a marketing thing. It’s crazy to even think about. I mean, who are the people that govern chickens and restaurant names? Where’s the office? The FDA don’t give a damn so I know it’s not them. This is something someone made up. Probably Bojangles or Popeyes, but it worked for a lot of us. Clearly not enough to hurt their sales. I heard this rumor in 1999, and as of 2021, they’re still in business.
My point is that word of mouth, once it spreads, can be great marketing for your brand or it can completely turn away potential customers. Start a rumor about your own business to see what happens. Of course I wouldn’t suggest anything outlandish, but something that goes along with your brand and where you want it to go.
Jay Z is a great rapper, but he got really big as a celebrity after he started implanting his own name into the conversations. “I’m from where n_____s pull your card, and argue all day about
Who’s the best MC, Biggie, Jay Z, or Nas” (from the song Where I’m From off the 1997 album In My Lifetime Vol. 1). Nobody was having this argument when he said this. We were talking about Biggie, Nas, and Tupac at the time. His first album (his best in my opinion) didn’t do good until he re-released it after his second album did great. But he said it so much on that second album that we really did start having that conversation. He started a rumor that we were talking about him (and maybe they were in his hometown), but he made us feel like this should be a real conversation…until it was a real conversation. Now look at him. It worked.
Start a rumor!