Bumper Stickers: Good PR or Bad PR?

Recently I asked my husband if we could try a new church closer to our house.  His reply: “The bumper sticker church.  We will never go there.  Those people are the worst drivers.”  It’s true.  Or at least it seems that the drivers with those bumper stickers are some of the worst: slow, absent-minded, bad parkers, etc.  Before even setting foot in their church we already had formed an opinion.  I was willing to go and experience it for myself before shutting down the option, but the bad opinion my husband formed—simply from the bumper stickers—has made the idea of visiting that church an impossibility.

This made me wonder: is it a good idea for organizations to pass out bumper stickers to constituents?  On the one hand, an organization’s name becomes more visible.  But on the other hand, the organization loses control of telling their message.  Each time someone with an organizational bumper sticker cuts someone off, slams on their brakes, flips someone the bird, curses, drives too slow or any other way that bothers other drivers, the organization’s message is associated with the bad driver.

In PR, the message vehicle (no pun intended) can be just as important as the message.  When an organization hands over the control of spreading its message, a new, unintended message can be communicated; this can ultimately hurt and organization’s brand.

So are bumper stickers good PR or bad PR (yes, there is such a thing as bad PR but that is for another post)?  It depends on your organization and message.  But for one church in the Charlotte-area, it kept us from visiting.  Have you ever formed a negative opinion of an organization based on the drivers that display its bumper sticker?