Primal Branding Series:

Handling the Haters - Navigating Criticism and Building Brand Advocacy


In the age of social media, every brand is bound to encounter criticism and skeptics. While it may be disheartening, it is important for brand managers and small business owners to view criticism as an opportunity for growth and brand advocacy. Inspired by Patrick Hanlon’s book “Primal Branding,” this blog explores the concept of “Pagans” and provides effective strategies for navigating criticism and turning skeptics into brand advocates. By understanding the principles outlined in Primal Branding, brand managers and small business owners can effectively manage criticism and leverage it to strengthen their brand’s reputation.


Understanding “Pagans” and Criticism:

In Primal Branding, Hanlon introduces the concept of “Pagans” as the skeptics, critics, or haters who challenge your brand. They play a crucial role in the branding journey, as their skepticism provides an opportunity to engage and convert them into brand advocates. By acknowledging their concerns and addressing them effectively, you can turn skeptics into loyal supporters.


Effective Strategies for Managing Criticism:

  1. Listen and Empathize: When facing criticism, it is crucial to listen attentively and empathize with the concerns raised. Show your audience that you value their opinions and understand their perspectives. This helps establish a foundation of trust and open communication.


  1. Respond Promptly and Professionally: Timely responses to criticism demonstrate your commitment to addressing concerns and finding solutions. Respond in a professional and respectful manner, avoiding defensive or confrontational language. This shows that you are genuinely interested in resolving issues and building positive relationships.


  1. Provide Transparency and Authenticity: Transparency builds trust and authenticity, which are essential in managing criticism. Be open about your brand’s values, processes, and decision-making. Share behind-the-scenes insights to humanize your brand and show your audience that you are genuine and trustworthy.


  1. Turn Criticism into Improvement: Use criticism as an opportunity for growth and improvement. Analyze the feedback received and identify areas where your brand can evolve and better meet customer expectations. Communicate the steps you are taking to address concerns and demonstrate your commitment to continuous improvement.


  1. Engage in Meaningful Dialogue: Encourage open dialogue with critics and skeptics. Seek to understand their perspectives and engage in constructive conversations. By fostering a respectful and meaningful dialogue, you can bridge gaps, address misunderstandings, and potentially convert skeptics into loyal brand advocates.



Handling criticism is an integral part of managing a brand. By applying the principles of Primal Branding, brand managers and small business owners can effectively navigate criticism and turn skeptics into brand advocates. Understanding the concept of “Pagans” allows you to address concerns with empathy and authenticity, fostering trust and building stronger connections with your audience. Embrace criticism as an opportunity for growth and improvement, and leverage it to strengthen your brand’s reputation and create a community of loyal brand advocates.







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