What We Can Learn From Charlie Sheen

Admit it, you’ve been following the Charlie Sheen debacle.  Even those of us who don’t “do” pop culture have tuned in to see what will happen next.  I’ll admit it — I’ve followed the tiger blood-filled warlock on Twitter “just to see.”Back in December we talked about DecorMyEyes and their founder’s negative publicity campaign.  Charlie Sheen’s recently train wrecked life is, in a way, a bigger, louder version of the same strategy.  So what can we learn from Charlie Sheen? 

Publicity is publicity. When it comes down to it, if what you want is for people to know and remember you, how you draw their attention is irrelevant.  Good or bad, if your publicity is enough to draw the eyes of the world, you’ve accomplished your goal.

Negative publicity is more effective. At least when it comes to getting attention.  I guarantee you that more people know Charlie Sheen now than before his breakdown.  Recently Sandra Bullock has been in the news for donating $1M to recovery efforts around the world.  It’s a beautiful act for which she deserves recognition — and yet, had she been caught in some compromising position, it would be all over every news channel and media source and everyone in the world would know about it.  That’s just the way of the world.  People love to watch train wrecks.  Think about reality TV shows.  People don’t watch Jersey Shore because it’s quality entertainment.  Even with specific regard to social media, when a company accidentally sends out an unprofessional tweet, it’s all over the news — and gains them more followers.

Negative publicity will kill your business. Or will it?  When all this stuff with Charlie Sheen started happening, I thought, “That man will never work again.”  And yet, here he is with a new TV show in the works.  When it came out and was all over the news that Taco Bell uses questionable meat, I thought, “Surely people will stop eating there.”  But no.  As contrary to reason as it may be, it just doesn’t work that way.  Taco Bell is running a damage control campaign to recover from the debacle, and it’s working brilliantly.

But what does any of this have to do with building a business with customers who trust you and believe in your quality product or service?  Maybe it’s a tactic for you to try.  While I wouldn’t recommend it, I’d be interested to see the results.  More likely, though, it’s just good information about the way the world of publicity works!

What do you think — is Charlie Sheen’s train wreck of a life a true breakdown or a brilliant marketing ploy?  Would you ever use negative publicity to garner attention?

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