The Streisand Effect and Your Brand Value. Photographer Kenneth Adelman took an aerial photo of Barbra Streisand’s Malibu mansion. In return, the singer sued him for $50,000,000 citing violation of privacy. Before the suit, “Image 3850” (the photo of Streisand’s mansion) had been downloaded from the California Coastal Records Project collection of 12,000 images only six times (and two of those downloads were by Streisand’s attorneys). After the suit was made public the image was visited over 420,000 times.
Hence the Streisand Effect.
Wikipedia defines The Streisand Effect as “the phenomenon whereby an attempt to hide, remove, or censor a piece of information has the unintended consequence of publicizing the information more widely.” This is otherwise known as “psychological reactance, wherein once people are aware something is being kept from them, their motivation to access and spread the information is increased.”
When you apply the Streisand Effect to your brand, the results can be either good or bad.
The outcome depends on how you employ the technique. Miami Republican state representative Jose Felix “Pepi” Diaz was a competitor on Season 5 of The Apprentice. But a few years later he decided that being associated with president Donald Trump was not a good thing for his senate bid.
And so Diaz’s picture of the two of them smiling together, along with the post “Just ran into the first guy who ever fired me. The next president of the United States @realDonaldTrump #Apprentice #POTUS #ElPresidente”, was removed from Diaz’s website and Twitter feed.
The Miami New Times pointed out that it’s not hard to figure out why: “Diaz is worried about the image that would project to voters in Florida’s 40th state Senate district – especially because Hillary Clinton crushed Trump in that district 57 percent to 40 percent last fall.”
In response, the New Times has now distributed the story. Also, Democratic activists are making sure that the photo of a chummy Pepe and POTUS is not forgotten.
Clearly this is a negative example of the Streisand Effect.
But the Streisand Effect can also be put to good use thanks to its uncanny ability to generate interest and attention.
Think back to The Beatle’s masterful “Paul is Dead” campaign. This hoax culminated in the clue-laden Abbey Road album cover. That resulted in the band’s November 1969 record sales breaking all records.
Ferrari puts the Streisand Effect to good use, too. Unlike virtually every other auto brand that sells cars for money, you cannot simply walk into a showroom, throw down your black American Express card and drive out in a special edition Italian sports car. Instead Ferrari uses scarcity to keep demand – and prices – skyhigh.
Nike does it with their special release Air Jordan’s.
And Apple does it with almost every product they sell.
If familiarity does indeed breed contempt, then these brand masters know that we desperately want what we can’t have. And rather than being upset or walking away in anger, we’ll wait longer, pay more, and use every angle and connection we have to overcome the Streisand Effect.