The above question figurated often when I was doing direct marketing (Email or SMS) for big or medium brands because they viewed it often as spam. Even some small couple thought that they have a big name in their industry and acted like they have a known brand to protect. Usually, the answer, from the point of view of some old-school management personnel, is that reputation of the company is more important because it’s the brand that brings sales. These are the same people who pour millions into ineffective brand marketing without ever calculating ROI.

Established opinion

Clearly, the industry dinosaurs think that reputation is more important, but is it really? Obviously, an excellent brand reputation does ad some sales and based on brand recognition and the niche it be can quite a lot for some companies. But if you chose to desist from a marketing campaign just because it may hurt your reputation, will your good, non-wrecked reputation compensate those sales even in the long-term?

Results speak for themselves

A successful marketing campaign always brings sales, so it’s cash in your registry or bank account. It is something concrete physical that you will add to your financial statement. On the other hand, there are no accurate research results on how a potentially bad reputation will harm your future sales, since it’s extremely difficult to measure. It all comes down to the experience and knowledge of a person in charge and his ability to determine causation. But this is often a subjective opinion that is not based on data.

What harm can spam cause for reputation?

How could a potential spam message harm a well-known brand? Imagine you receive a clear spam message from Apple. What is your reaction? Will you instantly hate the company with all your guts, and stop buying their products, simply because they sent you an ad you did not want to see? I bet no. Or will you contact their customer support to start a fight because of an unsolicited email message? Only if you are the type of person, who likes to get in arguments all the time.

If you liked the company before and bought their products, you will continue to do so. Of course, if you hated the company, you might find this as a good reason to bash them, but then again, you probably were intentionally looking for a mistake from them, to justify your actions.

What truly affects reputation?

In reality, a little spam message will not hurt your feelings because it’s not that serious of an issue. It not like they are killing poor animals, poisoning our food or polluting our planet. Oh, wait! They are doing that already! Almost every big company does something seriously illegal and harmful. However, still, they think we care more about receiving spam than about the destruction of our environment! Do they assume we are that stupid? Do we care about some irrelevant spam, but not about the severe neglects?

There is a strategy to divert people’s attention from major issues and direct them into minor issues, so that they will not know or have time to concentrate on the serious matters.

Governments and religions have used this strategy for centuries, and naturally, the companies also adopted it for their own benefit. They use it to commit severe crimes so that they don’t worry about how it will impact their reputation because, at the same time, they did something hypocritically meaningless to show us that they act decently. It’s not really about companies you do. It’s about how they lie to consumers and try to alter the worldview of the public. If they succeeded with poisoning our planet and getting away with it, they would have succeeded with sending spam and making us believe it’s acceptable. They just don’t want it because it will not benefit them.


Spam does not wreck the reputation of the company. The thing is that the diverting strategy mentioned above also brainwashes many managers, so they genuinely think that spam is an important issue when it’s not. Therefore they make wrong decisions when choosing a marketing campaign because they think it might harm their reputation.

Reputation vs Sales? 

Obviously, sales always win, and the companies have proven this many times. If you have no sales but an excellent reputation, your company is dead, end of the story.

On the other hand, many corporations have actually a terrible reputation, because today, people are aware of what they do to us. Just look at McDonald’s. Who doesn’t hate them, and who doesn’t eat there? It can even be the same people: they eat there, even though they know it’s unhealthy. Therefore the bad reputation doesn’t stop companies from having a huge amount of profit.

The main question is not even correctly formulated because there are hardly any scenarios in which choosing sales will harm your reputation. The reputation of multi-billion dollar companies is so stable that it’s almost impossible to demolish it. No matter what they do, their reputation will still hold. It can’t even be destroyed by terrible customer experience, which most large corporations practise. Even if the company commits a massive fraud, like Volkswagen’s emission scandal, they will blame an individual within the company, and after some stock value loss and time, no one will remember that they violated some unfair government regulation. Today, a few years after, people still buy VW as they did, and many consider it to be a good reliable car. 

The purpose of the brand is to have an association with a need

It’s not what kind of reputation the company has that is important, but if people know then in the first place. When the brand is known, when consumers think of a product, they will associate with the brand. The only thing that can destroy a positive connection is a lousy product and nothing else.

Many people who hate the policy a company still use their product, just because their product is better in some way or cheaper. Not many people have such strong principles will rather suffer than not support a company that doesn’t share their values. Those raging activists make only about 1% of a total consumer base, so they will not knock over any company, no matter how much noise they make.


Filip Poutintsev, the Chief Editor of Honest Pros and Cons, is a long term business writer, who has been featured in various online publications such as Forbes, CoinTelegraph and HackerNoon. Now he writes exclusively for Honest Pros and Cons.