When Brand Familiarity Breeds Risk: The Curse of Negative Knowledge

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In today’s world, knowing more about a brand can make people think worse of it. Rather than helping a brand, increased familiarity can actually add risk. This is a phenomenon referred to as “negative knowledge.” It happens when the more consumers know about a brand, the less they like it. Possible reasons can be that consumers feel embarrassed by the brand, that they have bad brand experiences or learn about them in the media or from friends, or that they dislike a company’s business motives.

Once consumers know something about a brand, it is hard for them to “un-know” it. During a time of media fragmentation when all managers are struggling to gain more fame for their brands, it’s critical to realize that brand knowledge comes with a potential dark side. While it’s always wise to avoid brand obscurity, marketers must be ever cognizant that what customers know about a brand really can do more harm than good.