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Want a Buzzworthy Brand? Avoid Too Much Controversy

Want a Buzzworthy Brand? Avoid Too Much Controversy . / Credit: © Spaceheater | Dreamstime.com

Brands that try to drum up a lot of controversy to create some buzz might want to rethink their strategy, a new study finds.

Researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania discovered that although slightly controversial topics can be intriguing to consumers, topics that are too controversial turn them off.

While conventional wisdom may be that controversy generates more buzz, the researchers found that consumers are less likely to discuss topics or brands that are very controversial.

As part of the study, the authors analyzed more than 200 online news articles to measure how the controversy level of an article corresponded to the number of comments it received. They found that moderately controversial articles received more comments than articles that were either less or more controversial.

The study's authors — Zoey Chen, of the Georgia Institute of Technology, and Jonah Berger, of the Wharton School — said that even though consumers may touch on controversial topics with friends— or when they're posting anonymously — companies' attempts to evoke controversy can often backfire.

"While negative attention can sometimes make consumers more interested in a topic, you should avoid evoking more than a moderate level of controversy if you want to generate more word of mouth," the authors wrote.

The study, "When, Why and How Controversy Causes Conversation," is scheduled to appear in the October issue of the Journal of Consumer Research.

Originally on BusinessNewDaily .

Chad Brooks

Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based freelance writer who has nearly 15 years experience in the media business. A graduate of Indiana University, he spent nearly a decade as a staff reporter for the Daily Herald in suburban Chicago, covering a wide array of topics including, local and state government, crime, the legal system and education. Following his years at the newspaper Chad worked in public relations, helping promote small businesses throughout the U.S. Follow him on Twitter.