That's the conclusion that CalPoly Pomona professor Tina Carroll drew from her research into the correlation between familiarity with a corporate brand and its reputation. One of the most interesting aspects of the Miami conference is that you can present preliminary research one year and follow up in a presentation a year later. One of my favorite papers from last year was the one that Tina and John Gilfether gave on the influence of familiarity on preference, and Tina's continued investigation of the topic yielded some very interesting conclusions.
You can read the details in the next issue of The Measurement Standard but the top line conclusions are pretty compelling for PR. According to Carroll, there may, in fact, be no such thing as bad publicity. What she found was that:
"There are indirect relationships between company familiarity and willingness to recommend stock and willingness to recommend purchase of the product. In addition, there are relationships between perception of company personality (good, bad), perception of company citizenship (excellent, poor), perception of company reputation (favorable, unfavorable), and willingness to recommend the purchase of a product or willingness to recommend stock.
The more familiar respondents were with a company, the more positively they rated the citizenship behaviors of the organization. The industry on which familiarity had the highest impact on company citizenship was consumer packaged goods (CPG). The familiarity toward the companies within the financial industries had the smallest yet still significant impact on perception of corporate citizenship.
Compared to citizenship and personality, familiarity had the largest impact on reputation. In fact, all industries were found to be moderately affected by reputation at a statistically significant level based on the standardized regression weights. This indicates that familiarity about an organization positively impacts the reputation of the organization. Therefore, increasing a publics’ familiarity with an organization will increase the perceived reputation. In all cases, citizenship was found to have a significant and positive relationship with corporate equity.
So, does familiarity really breed contempt? No, it doesn’t. In fact, familiarity enhances scores on positive organizational perceptions, such as citizenship, reputation, and personality. In turn, these variables influence actual behaviors. While other factors may impact the variables investigated, this study provides great insight into how public relations characteristics impact corporate equity."