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I hate what you love: brand polarization and negativity towards brands as an opportunity for brand management

Sergio Andrés Osuna Ramírez (Business School, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, UK and Universidad Escuela de Ingenieria de Antioquia, Envigado, Colombia)
Cleopatra Veloutsou (Adam Smith Business School, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, UK)
Anna Morgan-Thomas (University of Glasgow, Glasgow, UK)

Journal of Product & Brand Management

ISSN: 1061-0421

Article publication date: 7 March 2019

Issue publication date: 6 September 2019




Negativity towards a brand is typically conceived as a significant problem for brand managers. This paper aims to show that negativity towards a brand can represent an opportunity for companies when brand polarization occurs. To this end, the paper offers a new conception of the brand polarization phenomenon and reports exploratory findings on the benefits of consumers’ negativity towards brands in the context of brand polarization.


To develop a conception of brand polarization, the paper builds on research on polarizing brands and extends it by integrating insights from systematic literature reviews in three bodies of literature: scholarship on brand rivalry and, separately, polarization in political science and social psychology. Using qualitative data from 22 semi-structured interviews, the paper explores possible advantages of brand polarization.


This paper defines the brand polarization phenomenon and identifies multiple perspectives on brand polarization. Specifically, the findings highlight three distinct parties that can benefit from brand polarization: the polarizing brand as an independent entity; the brand team behind the polarizing brand; and the passionate consumers involved with the polarizing brand. The data reveal specific advantages of brand polarization associated with the three parties involved.

Practical implications

Managers of brands with a polarizing nature could benefit from having identified a group of lovers and a group of haters, as this could allow them to improve their focus when developing and implementing the brands’ strategies.


This exploratory study is the first explicitly focusing on the brand polarization phenomenon and approaches negativity towards brands as a potential opportunity.



Osuna Ramírez, S.A., Veloutsou, C. and Morgan-Thomas, A. (2019), "I hate what you love: brand polarization and negativity towards brands as an opportunity for brand management", Journal of Product & Brand Management, Vol. 28 No. 5, pp. 614-632.



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