Brand Crisis – How to Manage, Survive and Thrive

The one thing every brand product or service can count on is that there is a brand crisis in your future. No brand is immune. And, because bad news travels fast (faster than ever, due to social media), time is of the essence.

 

When do you have a brand crisis on your hands? Whenever there are “unexpected events that threaten a brand’s perceived ability to deliver expected benefits, thereby weakening brand equity.” [1]

 

It’s a Brand Crisis: First Things First

Step 1: Damage Control

Whether Mother Nature or manmade forces are at work, it’s critical that no matter how robust a brand you have built, you do have a “just-in-case” plan on the Public Relations shelf. A crisis management professional will guide you on the immediate essential steps and basic principles[2] of crisis management, and importantly, on your specific scenario.

 

From the very first moment that a sudden event, a mistake, or a piece of news impacts a brand negatively, savvy brand managers need to know:

  • what to do first
  • what never to say to the media
  • how to prioritize
  • what social media tactics are best

 

Step 2: Assessing the Brand Damage

According to the Financial Times, “When a brand crisis breaks out, consumers and other stakeholders (e.g., shareholders, the media, regulators) are likely to raise questions about the affected brand and why the crisis happened such as: who is to blame? Is the event likely to happen again? Is it true? What does the crisis signal about the brand?”[3]

 

When the frenzy begins to abate, your brand requires large amounts of tender loving care. The central question to be answered relates to the prognosis and timing for recovery. That is, brand owners and managers need to analyze both the short-term and long-term effects of the damage caused by the crisis for complete, cool-headed consideration.

Step 3: Short-Term Brand Damage

Assuming no loss of life or property, your short-term considerations are typically:

  1.  sales
  2.  consumer confidence
  3.  an attack mounted by opportunist challenger brand(s).

Therefore, the task is to recover revenue, earn consumers’ trust, and deal with competitors in the right way.

 

A silver lining comes from gaining positive lessons learned from a negative experience…it’s never more important than when one’s “dirty laundry” has been on display for all to observe.

 

Nevertheless, a brand audit followed by a refresh or re-branding may very well be in order at this critical moment.

 

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After the Brand Crisis: Getting Back to Normal

Step 4: Long-Term Brand Damage

A crisis is a harsh teacher and requires cool heads to respond rationally to an irrational situation. Ultimately, every crisis has a resolution.

 

How a brand deals with a crisis during the short-term damage control step will have a lasting effect on its reputation in the long-term, where it matters most. Indeed, that behaviour becomes a benchmark for the brand as conversations in the public sphere revolve around the brand’s handling of the event.

 

Because every situation is different, it’s impossible to say how long after the initial crisis occurs that step 4 will begin. It could be days, weeks, or months. Experts agree, “The scale and duration of this impact depends on a number of factors, including a brand’s track record and established consumer goodwill, as well as how quickly brand custodians respond to the crisis.” [4]

 

If you need to evaluate your brand’s vulnerabilities, weak points and areas in need of change then now is the time to use the Auditing Analysis Accelerator™. It’s an online programme that walks you through, step-by-step, the process of giving your brand an audit. A critical management tool in every brand owners arsenal.

 

Step 5: The Problem Gets Fixed

In a widely shared 2005 op-ed published by the Wall Street Journal[5] following the devastating Hurricane Katrina, the former chairman of General Electric presented his thought leadership memo about the five stages of a crisis. According to Jack Welch, the fifth and final stage in crisis management is when the problem gets fixed.

 

A benefit derived from a crisis is that it lets us know where things are broken and can help us to identify solutions so that future similar crises may be avoided. But this benefit applies only if we take the appropriate steps to learn those lessons and to apply that wisdom to our brand.

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It’s mandatory to undertake the post-crisis approach strategically. In the words of Jawaharlal Nehru, statesman of India, “Every little thing counts in a crisis.”

 

What Now For My Brand?

As a branding expert, Persona Design can provide insights and advice about getting your brand back to ship-shape by determining:

 

This process begins with a detailed brand audit focused on recovery. This procedure determines your brand’s market position versus competitors, identifies where brand strengths and weaknesses lie, reveals inconsistencies and opportunities for improvement, and flags new developments.

 

 

Option 1: A Brand Refresh

In the wake of a crisis, a refreshed brand must create and clearly communicate new company values.

 

Option 2: A Re-branding

A brand audit will determine whether the brand can survive. Some brands, including large ones like Arthur Andersen (now Accenture), cannot survive a deep crisis.

Calculated and deliberate brand re-building to repair brand reputation is not a frivolous process. It requires a serious and thoughtful strategy based on customer perception, behaviour and values.

Let’s look at five types of crises that commonly occur in a small-to-mid-sized company and use illustrations found within larger corporations. Note that the strength of a brand image will mitigate damage in crisis aftermath, with smaller brands being more vulnerable than these household names.

 

A Bump in the Road for Brands

1. Product Failures

As a small-to-medium retailer, you can be caught up in a failed product originating with one of your suppliers. It’s a costly headache for retail management having to refund customers’ money, give them replacements, deal with the supplier, while hoping the problem doesn’t get any worse or rub off on your own brand. When a product failure occurs, you may benefit from professional brand reputation management.

Example: Due to six fatal incidents, millions of unstable dresser units have been recalled by IKEA[6], which is responsible for their own supply chain as manufacturer and reseller. This product recall is one of 17 for IKEA in 2015 through mid-2016.[7]

ikea-malm-dresser

IKEA Malm dressers (IKEA Corporate News website)

Result: Surveys indicates that the world’s largest furniture retailer’s reputation is hit hard, but the brand will survive, according to experts like Stephan Shakespeare, founder and CEO of YouGov, who writes in July 2016, “The good news is that IKEA’s overall Value Score remains relatively untroubled – in the UK at least. While this remains the case, IKEA can be assured its offering will continue to be popular…IKEA should be thankful that it has such a strong brand image, and indeed one that people around the world have a connection and loyalty to.”[8]

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Image via Buzz Score (YouGov)

 

2. Brand Embarrassment

Keep your clearly defined brand values front and centre in the mind of the customer. If something embarrassing does occur, seek advice from a professional branding agency to prevent customers from expressing dismay with their feet and their wallets.

“People buy a brand because it says something about who they are and what they believe in,” according to Deborah MacInnis, PhD, a professor of marketing at the University of Southern California Marshall School of Business. “If there’s a brand that does something bad, people feel betrayed but also feel that wearing it would signal that they agree with the values of the company.”[9]

Example: High priced teen apparel brand Abercrombie & Fitch lost its status as darling of the Millennials when the CEO made disparaging comments about customers who didn’t fit the store’s skinny sizing. An employee with an eating disorder gained 68,000 petition signatures and an apology.

 

 

Result: Sales have been impacted to the degree that store closings are the only option. The brand continues to close sizeable chunks of its portfolio of (previously) 946 U.S. store locations.

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Image via Fortune, source Abercrombie & Fitch filings

 

3. High Profile Dishonesty

Just one untruthful comment by one top executive can negatively affect a brand. This can be particularly disruptive for service brands where the emphasis is on people. A renewed brand promise will help get things back on track.

A Canadian-based digital strategy specialist writes, “Brands aren’t heartless, mindless, soulless, brick and mortar stores. They are built by people. And no customer wants to associate with brands that comprise of unscrupulous, unreliable people. Honesty is always number one on buyers’ desirability index.”[10]

Example: After a 22-year career, NBC’s former national news anchor, Brian Williams, lost his job after exaggerating a report about his experience on the front lines in Iraq.

 

 

Result: With a quick response from NBC, a Williams apology, and a seven-month suspension for its news anchor, the network weathered the storm around trustworthiness. The popular news announcer who had enjoyed a 10-year, $15 million/year contract was brought back on air, albeit with a demotion to the network’s related cable brand, MSNBC.[11]

4. Broken Brand Promises

In the consumer’s mind, Whole Food stands for healthy eating, responsibly grown, and high quality standards, so that shoppers can buy with confidence around issues they care about.[12] A series of giant consumer let downs have occurred. Whole Foods Market, Inc. is big enough to fund their own newly hired full-time professional global VP to handle post-crisis brand strategy.[13]

Example: Whole Foods dropped the ball on their own brand promise. Last year, Whole Foods was found guilty of price mischarging from California to New York. In another salvo at Whole Foods in June 2016, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration issued a series of safety standard warnings[14] regarding fundamental cleanliness standards.

Result: Consumers were unimpressed when Whole Foods responded with a video from the company’s CEOs. People reportedly found the performance insincere, punctuated with the kind of overt gesticulation that students of body language are trained to spot. No discount was offered to entice customers back. Share prices for Whole Foods Market, Inc. have depreciated 25 percent in 12 months[15] and they’re pivoting to an ancillary brand, a smaller store with less selection, called 365, aimed at Millennials.[16]

 

 

What happened to “The Customer is Always Right”? Harry Gordon Selfridge may have overdone customer service with that mantra back in 1909. However, when a business’s explanation is open to interpretation as “we’re sorry we got caught,” you can be sure that savvy consumers aren’t buying it.

 

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Image via YouTube

5. Scandals

When internal and external brand values are out of alignment and don’t match, the result can be devastating. FIFA, Volkswagen, Sports Direct, Chipotle, Bill Cosby, Ryan Lochte. And now Wells Fargo, one of the world’s largest banks (with a comfy Old West stagecoach brand image) was fined $185 million and released 5,300 when a fabricated bank account scandal broke.

 

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Image via Mirror UK

 

 

Example: For Findus, 50 years in the UK grocer’s frozen food aisles, it was one scandal too many. Following the uproar of 2013, when the beef lasagne was found to contain 60 to 100 percent horse meat, the product was pulled and the brand was sold. Time did not heal, as it became known that the brand had been served in 2,300 schools, hospitals, prisons, armed forces and senior housing,

Result: From spring 2017, the Findus brand is no more.[17]

 

Are you struggling with how to reposition your brand, rebuild your brand values, improve your brand promise — make your brand standout for the right reasons so it’s memorable and distinctive in ways that make it much loved? Then the Personality Profile Performer™ online programme is a perfect fit for you. Enroll today and make your brand highly visible and loved.

 

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Questions to ask while reinforcing or rebuilding your brand:

 

• How strong is your brand reputation?

 

• What problem does your brand solve for its customers?

 

• Are your brand values clearly defined and communicated?

 

• How does your brand deliver on its promise?

 

• How do your employees, partners, vendors, suppliers and owners view your brand?

 

• When was the last time you conducted a brand audit?

 

[1] http://blog.ebiquity.com/2015/07/why-it-pays-to-take-the-drama-out-of-a-crisis

[2] Bendel, Peggy. “It’s a Crisis! Now What?” SutherlandHousePublishing.com, 2012.

[3] http://lexicon.ft.com/Term?term=brand-crisis

[4] http://blog.ebiquity.com/2015/07/why-it-pays-to-take-the-drama-out-of-a-crisis

[5] http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB112666533279540108

[6] http://www.ikea.com/us/en/about_ikea/newsitem/062816-recall-chest-and-dressers

[7] http://www.ikea.com/us/en/about_ikea/newsroom/product_recalls

[8] https://yougov.co.uk/news/2016/07/06/ikeas-drawer-debacle-wont-destroy-uk-image/

[9] https://mic.com/articles/130147/researchers-are-now-able-to-measure-just-how-embarrassing-an-uncool-brand-is#.T70A15Xkv

[10] http://www.business2community.com/branding/4-reasons-dishonesty-can-kill-brand-faster-bad-strategy-01084600#5XME1zbb2yep2m34.97

[11] https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/at-long-last-brian-williams-is-back–humbled-and-demoted-to-low-rated-msnbc/2015/09/21/ea423408-6077-11e5-b38e-06883aacba64_story.html

[12] http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/mission-values

[13] http://www.vanityfair.com/news/2016/09/brooke-buchanan-theranos-whole-foods

[14] http://www.fda.gov/ICECI/EnforcementActions/WarningLetters/2016/ucm506089.htm

[15] http://www.investopedia.com/articles/markets/062016/what-whole-foods-latest-woes-mean-stock-wfm.asp

[16] http://money.cnn.com/2016/07/27/investing/whole-foods-earnings-july

[17] http://metro.co.uk/2016/01/31/goodbye-findus-crispy-pancakes-brand-dogged-by-horsemeat-scandal-is-to-disappear-5654449/

Brand Flops: 5 Lessons Brand Managers Can Learn From Epic Brand Failures

Successful branding is not easy. That’s why Coca-Cola, Sony, Microsoft, Ford, Colgate-Palmolive, McDonald’s and more — a few of the world’s biggest brands — have been responsible for some giant-sized branding flops.

 

In 1957, the introduction of the Edsel by Ford Motor Company was such a big failure that the name “Edsel” has become synonymous with “huge marketing failure.” In fact, Microsoft founder Bill Gates has singled out this example as one of his favorite case studies in what not to do.[1]

 

In each of the following cases there are numerous reasons for each of these famous brands falling short. In quite few a thorough brand audit would have flagged up some of the risks before they became text book flops.

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Let’s take a look at how Ford Motor Company, Coca-Cola, Apple, and other famous names have taught us that even the best brands can perform some of the biggest belly flops ever, providing us with a look at pitfalls to avoid and lessons to be learned.

 

 

Lesson #1: Brands Must Understand Customers Needs, Wants and Behaviours

 

Edsel

In 1955, in America’s motor city of Detroit, Ford’s gas-guzzling Edsel automobile was on the drawing boards. Meant to be the full-sized answer to fill every American suburban dream, they named the car posthumously after Henry Ford’s son.

 

However, by the time this full-sized automobile was launched in 1957, consumer preference had shifted toward compact cars — a shift that was cemented by a stock market dive. Positioned as the car of the future, Edsel was overpriced, over-hyped and entirely the wrong car at the wrong time. Production was ceased within two years in the costliest mistake American industry had ever known.

 

 

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1958 Edsel – Henry Ford Museum, Credit: Michael Barera, Wikimedia Commons 2.5

 

 

Coca Cola

In the 1980s, nobody considered the branding of fast-moving consumer goods under the category of apparel, other than as corporate giveaways or inexpensive T-shirts and baseball caps. Yet, Coca-Cola agreed a merchandising deal to create an upmarket fashion line of Coca-Cola Clothing designed by a young, unknown Tommy Hilfiger.

 

First sold at an Upper West Side New York City store called Fizzazz, the in-store marketing revolved around a soda counter shopping experience, an interactive video screens, and hole-in-the-wall credit card machines called Eric that didn’t appeal to consumers.[2] Instead of print catalogues for its mail order distribution, Coca-Cola Clothing distributed free CDs bearing a message that tried hard to connect the soft drink and the clothing. It read: “Pop this cassette open for a sparkling, carbonated fashion video.”

 

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Coca Cola print ad from the 80s (Credit: 237, eBay Store)

 

The concept was ahead of its time, even for trendy Manhattan audiences; only five of the 650 planned stores ever opened. The Hong Kong-made clothing felt cheap to the touch, featured a poorly designed fit, and the whole thing fizzled out fast.

Apple

Apple, too, once had a momentous flop in 1993. In those days, business cards and a Filofax diary were the tools of networking and time management. Apple tried to change all that by introducing a bulky Apple Newton handheld PC device which debuted at the Computerworld convention.

 

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Apple Newton (Credit: Ralf Pfeifer, Wikimedia Commons 3.0)

 

The world wasn’t ready and the product wasn’t right. Starting at $700, some said it was too expensive, others said too chunky, and everyone agreed it was very poor at reading the handwriting that people made using its stylus. Later versions of personal digital assistants (PDAs) by Apple competitors were enhanced, more broadly accepted by consumers, and sold far better.

 

 

Lesson #2: Brand Purpose Must Stay On Point

Brand extensions can be a tricky business. Colgate, Cosmopolitan magazine and Harley Davidson have clearly demonstrated what not to do. It’s difficult to imagine how some of these rather odd multi-million dollar spin-offs made it out of the boardroom, but they did.

 

Colgate

Colgate is a toothpaste; it promises pearly whites and fresh breath. Yet, in 1982, the toothpaste brand launched Colgate Kitchen Entrées, looking to capture the market in frozen ready-to-eat meals.

 

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Colgate Kitchen Entrees (via Marketing Directo, Madrid)

 

Why? Minty toothpaste and frozen peas? This mind-blowing branding concept was as unappealing as its packaging and promptly headed straight for the consumer graveyard, but not before hurting sales of Colgate toothpaste.

Cosmopolitan

In 1999 there was another weird marketing leap by the leading international women’s fashion magazine. Cosmopolitan introduced a line of yogurt on the already crowded refrigerated supermarket shelves.

 

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Cosmopolitan yogurt (Credit: Marketing Week)

 

Pricing it above the competition and calling it “sophisticated and aspirational,” this misguided off-message product line included Cosmopolitan Light Soft Cheese and Cosmopolitan Fromage Frais. If the brand strategy was, “Cosmo can sell anything,” consumer reaction said that they got that wrong.[3]

Harley Davidson

In 2000, Harley Davidson famously crashed into a wall when it went too far off centre with its drive into branded cologne and aftershave. In hindsight, critics point out that customer audience research and some well developed purchaser personas would have indicated that Harley rider brand values are not focused on smelling divine.

 

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Image via aazperfumes.com.br

 

Obvious? It’s hardly a surprise that these brand values include: freedom, authenticity, masculinity, toughness…and have absolutely zero to do with wanting to smell charming.[4]

 

 

 

Lesson #3: Brands Must Not Get Lost in Translation

American companies in particular have a long and checkered history of making blunders beyond their ethno-centric shores. General Motors, Pepsi, General Mills and Revlon are among the brands to have messed up on the world branding stage.

 

Even in the increasingly global marketplace, regional and national differences in traditions, cultural norms and taboos still matter greatly. Well-known translation examples fill the pages of business school case studies.

 

General Motors introduced the Chevy Nova in Mexico, which translates as “It doesn’t go.” Coors Beer messed up the translation of the tagline, “Keep It Loose” into Spanish as “Suffer from Diarrhea.” In Taiwan, “Come Alive With Pepsi” was interpreted as “Pepsi Brings Back Your Ancestors From the Dead.”[5] Scandinavian vacuum manufacturer Electrolux launched an American ad campaign with, “Nothing sucks like an Electrolux.”

Kellogg’s

Occasionally, deeper cultural gulfs are breached at great expense. In 1994, Kellogg’s invested $65 million introducing its Corn Flakes breakfast cereal to the massive consumer market in India. However, a light breakfast is not the way Indians prefer to start their day.

 

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Cornflakes (Credit: fir0002/Flagstaffotos, Wikimedia Commons)

 

Furthermore, hot milk on cornflakes (using cold milk was unthinkable to the Indian consumer) turned the product instantly soggy.[6] Pursuing cold drinks, Nestlé fared no better with the idea of iced tea in India.

Revlon

In Brazil, Revlon launched its top-selling Charlie perfume featuring the floral scent of camellias. Since camellias are that nation’s funeral flower, Revlon’s effort was obviously wasted. Money wasted, reputation damaged, the LA Times reported in 1999 that Revlon unsuccessfully sought a buyer for their struggling Latin American businesses.[7]

Lesson #4: Brands Must Evolve With the Times and Stay Relevant

 

Eastman Kodak

Kodak is a prime example of a legacy brand and market leader which did not keep pace with emerging technology.

 

In this case, it was the move from film to digital that outdid the brand. Founded in Rochester, NY in 1888, Eastman Kodak Company sent cameras to the moon, encouraged loyal consumers to capture personal “Kodak Moments” for decades, and employed an extended family of 70,000.

 

Ironically, filmless photography was invented by Steve Sasson, a Kodak engineer, in the mid-1970’s. “It could have been Kodak’s second act,” reported The Street in its article “Kodak: From Blue Chip to Bankrupt.” Instead, Kodak filed for bankruptcy in 2012.

Lesson #5: Choose Your Brand Ambassadors Carefully

Putting your money where someone else’s mouth is can lead to trouble, as demonstrated by brand after brand, including market leaders like Hertz and Nike. Leveraging a CEO, an employee, or a celebrity ambassador as the face of a the brand is a risky business strategy due to the unpleasant surprises that can — and do — crop up.

Hertz

As the very prominent longtime spokesperson for Hertz Car Rental, National Football League hero O.J. Simpson, known as “The Superstar,” had a locktight association with the brand.

The handsome, popular football running back was featured in a TV commercial dashing through airports to get to the Hertz rental counter. A decade as the face of the brand came to a screeching halt in 1994 when he was accused of the murder of his wife and a friend in an internationally publicized criminal trial.

Nike

In 2009, when pro golfing champion Tiger Woods was embroiled in a high-profile sex scandal, Nike suffered for having had him as their brand spokesperson. In a YouTube video aimed at damage control, Nike has Tiger’s father asking him what he was thinking.

 

The awkward video has had more than 4 million views but raises more questions than it answers. Nike’s bad luck continued with other disgraced sports figures: Lance Armstrong and Oscar Pistorius.

 

According to an article from London’s Cass Business School, personal circumstances are impossible to predict and extremely difficult to mitigate risk. The lesson learned is “to cut the ties between the brand and the brand ambassador as quickly as possible.”[8]

 

In all cases perhaps one of the biggest learnings is you should most definitely conduct a brand audit to evaluate your brand’s weak spots and identify new areas for innovation and growth before rushing headlong into a new venture.

 

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Five Questions to Consider:

  • Do any other epic flops come to mind, and if so, do you think one of these five reasons accounted for the failure?
  • Can you think of other branding examples where a thorough brand audit and proper market research could have avoided a huge mistake at great cost?
  • In addition to Kodak, what other brands lost their way by failing to use brand audits, purchaser personas or keep up with rapidly changing consumer preferences in the 21st century?
  • Which do you think are the world’s top 10 most valuable brands in 2016…and why?

 

 

You may also like:

• Brand Management: Top 10 Tips for Managing Your Brand Reputation

• How Brand Purpose = Purchase = Increased Profitability

• Rebranding Strategy: Why Your Rebrand Must Embrace Storytelling

• Brand Profiling: How to Use Emotion to Make Your Brand More Profitable

• Rebranding Strategy: Using Premium Repositioning To Increase Profitability

• Brand Profiling: Top 6 Components to Creating a Strong Brand Personality

• Brand Audits: 10 Things Successful Brand Owners and Managers Must Know

• Brand Personality: Is Your Brand’s Character Big Enough to Compete?

 

 

[1] http://www.wsj.com/articles/bill-gatess-favorite-business-book-1405088228

[2] http://www.nytimes.com/1986/11/09/business/pushing-fashion-in-the-fast-lane.html?pagewanted=all

[3] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/the-daily-meal/6-hilarious-food-and-drin_b_5055465.html

[4] http://www.casestudyinc.com/harley-davidson-brand-extension-failure

[5] http://www.namedevelopment.com/naming-faux-pas.html

[6] https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/attempt-analyze-mistakes-corrections-kelloggs-made-india-utkarsh

[7] http://articles.latimes.com/1999/oct/02/business/fi-17749

[8] http://www.cassknowledge.com/research/article/beware-when-brand-ambassadors-go-astray

Eleven Branding Lessons: Keeping a Sharp Eye on Your No.1 Asset

Once the heavy lifting in creating your brand is done, basic care and ongoing maintenance to preserve and protect it must not be overlooked. “Nurture your brand as you would a child,” says brand expert Jagdeep Kapoor, author of the bestselling “Twenty-Four Brand Mantras.” Just like all living things, a brand requires nurturing to remain healthy and to grow.

From creation through to end-of-life, a brand can encounter unexpected challenges arising from all sorts of corners, not just from the competition. From a poorly planned campaign to a corporate takeover, and from an outspoken CEO to a badly chosen name, a few examples that made recent headline news are worth a closer look to form takeaways and lessons learned for brand owners and managers everywhere.

Case Study: Rhode Island Is Not Iceland – Tourism Campaign Has Too Many Mistakes, Says Governor

America’s smallest state ought to know that details matter. When Rhode Island set out to create its new $5 million integrated tourism and new business promotion campaign, big guns were brought in. Who better, you might think, than Milton Glaser, the graphic designer who created the iconic  I ❤ NY campaign?

Lesson #1: Politics matter! Milton Glaser and Havas PR North America, chosen for the PR contract, are New York City firms, not Rhode Island firms.

Rhode Island Logos 600px

The newly launched campaign featuring a slogan “Cooler & Warmer” left many people cold…and guessing. What does it mean, they queried across social media channels. One Commerce Corporation board member said he saw “no emotional connection” and “no personal brand to the state or the people.”[1]

 Rhode Island And Harpa Tweet

An ATOM Media executive in Providence, RI said, “Usually a slogan is something that people know instantly and understand. I think the fact that you need to explain it could be a little problematic.”[2] That sentiment was echoed by the owner of a Newport, RI marketing and graphic design agency, who said the slogan, “Doesn’t make any sense to me. In order to create a good tagline you have to have a brand strategy.[3]

Lesson #2: Brand strategy comes before name, tagline and logo creation.

Lesson #3: Graphics must reflect and express a brand’s persona, and that must be one that resonates with people, not one that needs to be explained.

Lesson #4: Social media matters! A tagline containing a special character or symbol (such as the ampersand in Cooler & Warmer) won’t function as a hashtag[4]. Ever.

That wasn’t all. A YouTube video released with great fanfare was yanked within 24 hours when it was pointed out, “Hey, that’s not Rhode Island — that’s the Harpa concert hall and conference center in Reykjavik. Iceland.”[5] Other footage featured a highly acclaimed restaurateur who had already moved his operation to Boston. And the video also claimed 20 percent of America’s historic sites are in the little Ocean State, when it’s actually 2 percent.[6]

This was the ‘alternative’ Rhode Island Cooler & Warmer ‘spoof’ version produced by The Wonderful Show!

Lesson #5: Accuracy matters! The state’s marketing director resigned. Media partners are returning their contract fees to the taxpayers. Cooler & Warmer was scrapped.

After an initial attempt — picked up internationally, even by The China Post[7] — Governor Raimondo took a different tack at a news conference, saying, “One of the things I’ve learned from listening and engaging with people is that there should’ve been more public participation in this thing from the get-go.”[8]

With that in mind, Newport Buzz posted a public contest, pitting “Cooler & Warmer” against the previous slogan, “Discover Beautiful Rhode Island,” and a local  amateur entry, “Sea to Believe.” With 15,000 votes in so far, the local resident’s idea is clear away the favorite with 80 percent, versus the traditional one at 18 percent and the costly new-fangled entry coming in dead last at 2 percent.

Lesson #6: There’s no room for ivory tower decision-making. Consultation is critical, brand audits are essential.

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More Takeaways: All brands should consider geographical location of their contractors and supply chains when performing due diligence in order to avoid potential embarrassment. The look and feel of the brand via tagline, logo, adverts, all brand collateral, media and all touchpoints must resonate with its audience, make an emotional connection and be authentic. The importance of fact-checking and the need to eliminate exaggerated claims cannot be overstated. Handle a brand crisis with carefully thought-out strategy, not something to poke fun at.

Case Study: Brand Takeover – Richard Branson Reacts to Virgin America Sale

Sir Richard Branson is himself a brand who runs a brand that has sub-brands. The self-made billionaire wasted no time addressing the Alaska Airlines purchase of Virgin America — just in case of any tarnish rubbing off on the overall Virgin brand name.

 Richard Branson On Virgin America 600px

Image via www.virgin.com and Virgin America

Well aware of the fierce loyalty of Virgin America fans for what they consider a superior product at parity prices, Branson let everybody know, “I would be lying if I didn’t admit sadness that our wonderful airline is merging with another. Because I’m not American, the US Department of Transportation stipulated I take some of my shares in Virgin America as non-voting shares, reducing my influence over any takeover. So there was sadly nothing I could do to stop it.”[9]

Lesson #7: Confront a brand crisis. Deal with it, manage it, communicate about it professionally and do not hide from it.

In a statement that’s a pleasure to read in its entirety, due to the passion readers can sense, Branson goes on to discuss the importance of the brand, “…once Alaska witnesses first-hand the power of the brand and the love of Virgin America customers for our product and guest experience, they too will be converts and the US traveling public will continue to benefit…”

Even in the face of a forced merger, the rest of the Virgin brand received immediate reinforcement from the top. “Our Virgin airline has much more to do, more places to go, and more friends to make along the way,” Branson stated.

Lesson #8: Find the silver lining. Notice how Branson uses this corporate takeover event as an opportunity to reiterate the ongoing benefits of a Virgin travel experience.

Case Study: Tarnished Brand – Trump Empire?

In his run on the US presidency, Donald Trump’s raucous attention-grabbing style and statements is affecting custom at Trump Collection branded apartment towers, hotels, resorts and golf courses.

Trump Brand Versus Trump Candidate

Image via http://www.npr.org

Polling and consulting firm Penn Schoen Berland survey results found that 45 percent of respondent US residents with annual earnings of $200,000 or more will make a point of not visiting a Trump hotel or golf course over the next four years. Within that group, 77 percent indicated they would actually boycott the Trump brand.[10]

Lesson #9:  From the CEO to front line employees to the back of the house operation, your brand is represented by everyone in each and every customer (and potential customer) interaction. Everyone is, or should be, an ambassador for your brand.

Case Study: Stay Relevant, For The Times They Are A-Changin’

In the 1980’s, four-time Olympic diving gold medalist and five-time world champion Greg Louganis was passed over for one additional honor — an appearance on the Breakfast of Champions Wheaties Legends cereal boxes. Louganis is openly gay, HIV-positive and an LGBT activist. He is also “widely viewed as the greatest diver in the history of the sport,”[11] according to a recent communication from the Wheaties maker, General Mills.

Calling it “a ground swell of love,” Louganis told Hollywood Today that a petition signed by 40,000-plus people brought the oversight to the attention of General Mills. At age 56, Louganis joins a highly decorated Olympian swimmer and hurdler, a woman and a black man, in the brand’s revamped Wheaties Legends series packaging, available on the grocery store shelves (one million boxes!) from May 2016.

 Wheaties Legends Breakfast Of Champions 600px

Image via http://www.blog.generalmills.com

Lesson #10: A brand needs to stay relevant to stay alive. The brand must respond to feedback and act to correct an out-and-out mistake.

PPP-eProduct-Promise-Promo-800x700px

 

Case Study: What’s In a Name – Law School Learns to Study Harder

Experts highly recommend that even the smallest of brands invest time and effort in getting a name right from the start to avoid potential legal issues and massive upheaval if a change is required. That advice takes into consideration everything from spelling to acronyms to trademark and domain name. Later, a brand might tweak a logo, revamp packaging design, shift media channels, or even undertake a rebrand if necessary.

AdWeek reports that a recent study by U.K. research firm MillwardBrown found “many brands that change their names can expect an immediate 5 to 20 percent drop in sales, and that the new brand image ‘may not be as strong as it was before.’”[12]

After U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia passed away in February, George Mason University outside Washington D.C. renamed their law school after Scalia upon receiving a $30 million gift to do so.

George Mason Ass Law Tweet

Several tweets later[13], the school realized the awkward acronym they’d created and made a swift change away from Antonin Scalia School of Law, or ASSOL.[14] A crisis was averted at Antonin Scalia Law School before any signs went up or ribbons were cut.

 George Mason Uni (After) 600px

Image via https://www2.gmu.edu

Spelling Counts: When Small Brands Make Big Mistakes

Branding experts point out that misspellings, bad foreign language translations and tricky signage is an area frequently causing trouble at small companies which attempt an in-house branding effort. Even big brands don’t always get it right, with sometimes alarming results.[15]

Amusing examples can occur when random neon lights fail and the Essex House becomes Sex House and Dynasty Restaurant becomes Nasty Restaurant.

 Dynasty Restaurant Sign

Image via Reddit

Even an airport parking garage can be considered part of the airport’s brand. Here’s a curious example of why details matter, right down to vetting your contractors and proofing the signage.

 Parking Before Existing Sign 600px

Image via Reddit

Lesson #11: Seek professional assistance in naming a brand to avoid potentially disastrous errors and oversights.

 

Questions to consider:

• Would you agree that branding is even more important and valuable for small businesses than it is for big companies?

 

• Have you fully addressed your brand profiling, positioning and brand strategy prior to jumping into logo design or tagline development?

 

• Have you considered consumer research and due diligence of supply chain as part of your brand audit prior to brand launch or re-branding?

 

• Have you fully considered and defined differentiation within your brand? How is your brand really different distinctive and memorable?

 

• Have you determined that your brand rings true and authentic for its target audiences? Have you developed you purchaser personas for each of your different customer types?

 

• Have you seen other examples of common mistakes amongst other brands that you can learn from?

 

 

[1] http://pbn.com/Commerce-RI-board-member-Throw-Cooler-and-Warmer-slogan-out,113203

[2] http://turnto10.com/news/local/ri-commerce-corp-releases-state-promotional-video

[3] http://pbn.com/Commerce-RI-board-member-Throw-Cooler-and-Warmer-slogan-out,113203

[4] http://mashable.com/2013/10/08/what-is-hashtag/#tQ14Pph.xuqT

[5] http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/mar/30/rhode-island-tourism-video-mistakenly-features-reykjavik

[6] http://www.abcfoxmontana.com/story/31604583/rhode-island-governor-says-iceland-video-may-draw-tourists

[7] http://www.chinapost.com.tw/life/offbeat/2016/04/01/462288/Rhode-Island.htm

[8] http://wpri.com/2016/04/01/ri-chief-marketing-officer-resigns-after-cooler-warmer-debacle

[9] https://www.virgin.com/richard-branson/virgin-america

[10] http://www.npr.org/2016/04/05/473146450/how-will-trump-the-brand-survive-trump-the-candidate

[11] http://www.blog.generalmills.com/2016/04/evans-louganis-and-moses-get-wheaties-honor

[12] http://www.adweek.com/news-gallery/advertising-branding/11-brand-names-simply-couldnt-survive-times-163440

[13] http://fortune.com/2016/04/06/antonin-scalia-school-of-law

[14] http://www.cbsnews.com/news/antonin-scalia-school-of-law-renamed-due-to-awkward-acronym

[15] http://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/spelling-grammar-mistakes

 

  

Rebranding: Crisis Recovery and Brand Rebuild

In the first quarter of 2015, SDL conducted a survey of almost 3,000 customers and found four out of five would walk away from a brand and never give it another chance after experiencing a major issue.

 

That statistic explains why some brands have no choice but to rebrand in an attempt to resolve crises. Furthermore, of the people who return to a brand after being let down, 59 percent of them show less loyalty than before. [1]

 

Have you given some thought to how to mitigate potential risks to your brand? Do you have an appropriate brand crises management strategy in place in the event of the untoward happening?

 

Here we’ll share with you some of the critical issues you need to consider both in terms of how to rebrand and rebuild customer brand trust after a crisis.

 

Reasons to Rebrand

 

This article will focus on the need to rebrand in order to make a strong comeback after a crisis. However, there are other reasons to tackle rebranding, including: [2]

 

  • Your audience is changing, and rebranding is necessary to maintain brand relevance
  • Desire to move into an international market
  • Outgrowth: You’ve outgrown your brand in its earlier context and need to align more closely to current, larger needs
  • Customers aren’t sure what you do or what you offer. Your brand lacks distinction or difference
  • Competitors are eating into your market and enticing customers away
  • Name change
  • Brand is outdated and lacks relevance
  • Innovation: New technology has changed your market and your brand needs to change with it

 

 

Preparatory and Recovery Measures to Minimize Crises

 

Although you can’t ascertain definitively when problems might occur and what they will entail, it’s important to be aware of the potential threats your brand might face. Those can be identified through a brand audit and SWOT analysis, plus customer feedback. Sometimes, potential threats become apparent because of mass cultural feedback.

 

 

CASE STUDY 1: Page 1 Solutions

 

In July 2015, a dentist sparked worldwide outrage when he went on a game-hunting trip in Zimbabwe and killed Cecil, a beloved lion. Although officials have concluded the dentist’s actions were legal and he cannot be charged [3], people immediately took to the internet to vent their extreme displeasure over Cecil’s death.  

 

 

 Shouting Man 600px

 

 

Page 1 Solutions, a marketing firm that had once represented Palmer, was caught in the fray. Even though the firm had not been associated with Palmer since 2013, the public accused Page 1 Solutions of trying to defend the dentist. [4]

 

The marketing firm’s president clarified Palmer had not been on the client roster for a couple of years. However, public outrage continued to affect the small business.

 

Page 1 Solutions released several subsequent statements, and members of the company’s social media team responded to messages personally.  Other employees reached out to current clients and corrected misunderstandings. Local news branches were also contacted, and the CEO gave several interviews. Although company representatives say the unexpected catastrophe made their establishment stronger, they also recognized the need to develop a crisis plan for future issues.

 

Once you have identified potential threats to your brand, it’s critical to develop and document your brand strategy [5] to deal with them. Your crisis plan should include things such as:

 

  • A defined team to handle crises
  • A media coverage policy
  • Contact information and a contact log
  • Boilerplate information for press releases, plus fact sheets
  • A social media strategy

 

During the recovery process, the crisis plan should keep your actions purposeful and targeted, reducing the chances you’ll forget to attend to the needs and worries of stakeholders.

 

  

Focusing on the Desired Outcomes of Rebranding

 

If you’ve experienced a brand crisis, and post-event analyses indicates too much reputation damage has occurred to fully recover from, then it may be necessary to consider rebranding. However before you launch into a full-scale rebrand you need to determine what your desired outcomes are from rebranding your product, service or company. [6] Typically these might include:

 

  • Solve a problem that has tarnished the brand
  • Correct a damaging story that’s surrounding the brand
  • Disconnect from an association that is harmful or no longer meaningful or relevant from a customer perspective
  • Keep pace with competitors that are outperforming the brand

 

 

Actionable Strategies for Rebranding After a Crisis

 

Unintentional blunders are always possible during a rebrand if it’s not carefully planned, developed, managed and executed. You can minimize these oversights by integrating some of the steps mentioned below.

 

 

Decide if a Complete Rebrand is Truly Necessary

 

Depending on the severity of a crisis, it can sometimes be difficult to fully determine whether it’s better to fix the factors that have caused the brand to falter, or wipe the slate clean and start from scratch.

 

Making the choice can become even more difficult if a crisis has attracted a great deal of media attention. Independent external analysis can be useful to help put things into perspective so informed and unprejudiced decisions can be made.

 

 

CASE STUDY 2: Malaysia Airlines

 

2014 was a difficult time for Malaysia Airlines, as it was the year one of its flights went missing, and another was reportedly downed by a Russian missile. For weeks, the brand received constant negative media exposure, making people wonder if it would ever recover.

 

Although a complete rebranding is in the works, there are few details about it.[7]  Therefore, some industry analysts suggest it would be better to refresh the brand so as to not lose certain favorable associations or the perceived value of the brand’s equity. [8].

 

  

  

  

The airline was established in 1937. With that long history comes an undeniable amount of brand equity and awareness. Malaysia Airlines already had declining profits before the disasters of 2014, and it would be very expensive, indeed required considerable investment, to create a similar level of awareness after a rebrand. Although it remains to be seen what Malaysia Airlines will do in an attempt to recover, it’s clear the brand has a tough road ahead.

 

 

Rebranding and Crises Recovery Tips

 

1. Maintain Ongoing Communications: A rebrand risks alienating your audience. Avoid that possibility by keeping in touch through open, transparent dialogue.

 

2. Involve Skilled People: Rebranding will likely require a specialized team. As you give feedback during a rebrand, remember the people you’ve hired have gone through rebrand and crises challenges before and should be best positioned to provide expert direction on how to best handle yours.

 

3. Make All-Encompassing Changes During the Rebrand: Some companies make the costly mistake of thinking it’s sufficient to merely create a new company logo, change the brand collateral or switch employee uniforms to make people forget about a crisis. Instead, understand that major changes will have to be instigated across your entire organization, which will also typically require brand cultural changes together with both management and general staff brand induction and re-training, if you want to ensure your rebrand is a success.

 

 

CASE STUDY 3: LIVESTRONG Foundation

 

When it was discovered that cyclist Lance Armstrong had been taking performance-enhancing drugs for over a decade, yet had reportedly denied doing so, LIVESTRONG realized it needed to cut ties with the athlete. Meanwhile, Armstrong went on an “apology tour” and visited media outlets.

 

It began by changing its name from LIVESTRONG to the LIVESTRONG Foundation, launching a new identity, and reminding the public of the brand’s fundamental values and focus on helping people affected by cancer, not the actions of one person who’s a cancer survivor. [9]

  

  

  

  

The brand tapped into the public recognition of the foundation’s bright yellow hue and kicked off a campaign about cancer’s impact and what’s needed to address it. [10] The teams handling the rebranding deemed the project successful, and subsequent media coverage was positive.

 

 

Livestrong 600px 

Image via blog.livestrong.org

 

 

Rebranding and Crises Recovery Tip 4

 

Influence the Conversation: During a rebrand, it may be necessary to bring a new voice to the conversation. That’s especially likely if your brand has gone through a crisis that has caused people to speak badly about your products or services.

 

 

Case Study 4: Maggi Noodles

 

In June 2014, Maggi, a leading Indian noodle brand, marketed by Nestlé, was removed from the market when tests reportedly revealed lead content and found the product was mislabeled regarding monosodium glutamate (MSG). A Global Chief Executive from Nestlé stated the noodles were safe, but shortly afterwards, the company was unable to confirm when the noodles would be available to purchase again. [11]

 

By September, Maggi decided it would go against a characteristic aversion to publicity. Part of that initiative involved encouraging people to recall fond memories of eating Maggi noodles, complete with nostalgic media spots and the #WeMissYouToo hashtag.

 

Nestlé believed by changing and moving the conversation towards something emotionally more positive, people would begin to trust the brand again. [12] When Maggi noodles were offered for sale, the brand capitalized on a “Welcome Back” theme.

 

 

 Maggi Noodles 600px

Image via http://www.maggi.in

 

 

Rebranding and Crises Recovery Tip 5

 

Measure the Worth of the Rebrand: There are several metrics that can be examined to evaluate whether your rebrand was a success. Some forms of measurement include customer engagement levels, quarterly profits, and feedback surveys about perceptions.

  

  

  

  

  

The exact elements of a rebranding campaign will vary depending on the crisis a brand has dealt with, but whatever the circumstances rebranding is far more than just changing a logo and colour scheme. Rather, it often entails fundamentally changing or evolving what the brand ‘stands for’ through brand profiling; values, mission, vision, promise, personality, culture and goals, not to mention ensuring the rebrand is well positioned in the marketplace and fully understood by its target audience.

 

 

Key Takeaways

 

  • A crisis plan will help your brand respond strategically to mishaps without losing focus
  • Desired outcomes and key objectives should be fully established before proceeding with a rebrand
  • If issues can be remedied, a complete rebrand may not be necessary
  • A successful rebranding requires being transparent and fully engaged with your customers, stakeholders and the public at large

 

 

Questions to Consider

  

  • Does your brand have a crisis plan, or are you working to develop one?

   

  • How would you evaluate your company’s brand strategy and performance the last time it had to deal with something unexpected?

  

  

  • Has your brand had to disconnect from a harmful association, as the LIVESTRONG Foundation did?

  

  • Do you think nostalgia will be powerful enough to restore the Maggi Noodles brand?

 

 

You may also like:

 

• What Customers Want: Top 16 Branding Trends in 2016

 

• Rebranding Strategy: Why Your Rebrand Must Embrace Storytelling

 

• Brand Profiling: Top 6 Components to Creating a Strong Brand Personality

   

• Brand Audits: Why You Need Them and How to Perform One

 

• Creating New Brands: Top 10 Tips for Brand Success  

  

• Colour Psychology: Cracking the Colour Code for Profitable Branding

  

• Brand Personality: Is Your Brand’s Character Big Enough to Compete?

  

• Luxury Branding: How to Establish or Re-Position Your High-End Brand

 

  

[1] http://www.sdl.com “Avoiding CX Failure Fallout,” May 2015.

[2] Wendy Bolhuis, http://www.vim-group.com/, “The Top 10 Reasons for Rebranding,” June 2014.

[3] Reuters in Harare, http://www.theguardian.com, “Cecil the Lion: Zimbabwe Will Not Charge U.S. Dentist Over Killing,” October 2015.

[4] Adam Rowan, http://www.prdily.com, “What a Marketing Firm Did When a Former Client Killed Cecil the Lion,” December 2015.

[5] Jonathan Bernstein, “The 10 Steps of Crisis Communications,” 2013.

[6] David Brier,  http://www.risingabovethenoise.com, “How to Rebrand: 19 Questions to Ask Before You Start”

[7] Marcus Osborne, http://www.brandinginasia,.com, “Malaysia Airlines Rebrand is Coming: How Big Will it Be?,” December 2015.

[8] Mark Ritson, http://www.marketingweek.com, “Malaysia Airlines: Fix, Don’t Nix the Brand,”July 2014.

[9] http://www.corporate-eye, “Livestrong Rebrands as Livestrong Foundation Without Lance Armstrong, March 2013.

[10] Rigsby Hull, http://www.aiga.org, Case Study: LIVESTRONG Branding, November 2013.

[11] Ratna Bhushan, http://articles.economictimes.india.com/, “Maggi Noodle Fiasco: Nestle Works On Alternative Snack to Reposition Brand,” June 2015.

[12] Jacob Schindler, http://www.worldtrademarkreview.com, “Nestlé Taps into Nostalgia in Bid to Re-Launch Maggi Brand in India.” September 2015.

 

Brand Scandal: What’s Your Response to Controversy?

The recent horsemeat crisis may be producing some of the most amusing jokes of the last few months, but the implication for brands on losing consumer trust is certainly no laughing matter.

 

This latest consumer scare is less about the ingredients themselves and more to do with the level of trust we place in the hands of our food providers. With reputations built upon customer’s trusting the information provided, it begs the question, can brands built on trust withstand this level of breach in customer confidence?

 

 Tesc Beef Lasagne 20

 

The horsemeat scandal may be affecting the food industry but it is a wake up call to all brands. In the case of the horsemeat crisis many of the brands under fire were not intentionally misleading their customers.

 

The food industry has become so highly concentrated and globalised in recent decades, and supply chains have become so long that there is an increase in the points at which the integrity of the chain can break. 

 

This is not to say that the brands were void of responsibility. With an industry based on the traceability of the product, the promise of transparency and accountability lies with the parent brand. 

  

 Horse Meat Burgers

  

Few businesses are in complete control of all elements in their supply chains. Out sourcing is common, and indeed necessary, in most industries. Companies can rarely control all elements affecting the reputation of their brand and this makes it is increasingly important for brand’s to have a response strategy in place, incase a crisis hits.

 

The real indication of a brand’s ability to bounce back and rebuild consumer trust lies in their response to the scandal.

 

  

Top 3 Tips to Mitigate Brand Crises

 

1. Crisis Reaction

Recovery from a scandal begins with a phase of greater accountability from the brand. Apologizing to your customers and acknowledging you have let them down is an important step in rebuilding the trust lost.

 

In the wake of the horsemeat scandal Tesco released an apology in all major national newspapers as well as online. Included in the full apology was the following:

 

‘We have immediately withdrawn from sale all products from the supplier in question, from all our stores and online. If you have any of these products at home, you can take them back to any of our stores at any time and get a full refund. You will not need a receipt and you can just bring back the packaging. We and our supplier have let you down and we apologise.’

 


 

 

2. Internal communication

It is not just customers who are affected by a break in trust following a scandal. Employees have a sense of ownership of the brand they represent. They are often the very people who feel the greatest sense of betrayal when something goes wrong.

 

Communicating with staff during a time of crisis is critical to brand survival. Employees are often customer facing and the main communication channel between the brand and angered customers.

 

Employees who have an understanding of the brand’s position, who have been kept informed of the actions been taken by the brand to react to the scandal are best poised to alleviate customer concerns and reinstate trust. Employees who believe in the integrity of the brand, and their commitment to doing the right thing can help to rebuild a brand to a position of strength.

 

 Lance Armstrong

   

Before Lance Armstrong’s public confession of guilt for doping offenses he met with staff at Livestrong, the charity he helped found, and apologized for letting the staff down and putting the Livestrong brand at risk. He said he would try to restore the foundation’s reputation, and urged the group to continue fighting for the charity’s mission of helping cancer patients and their families.

 

 Livestrong Wristband

  

Tesco have a website dedicated specifically to internal communication with their staff. As part of their crisis management the brand has kept their employees well informed as to the companies actions regarding the horsemeat scandal and how they are responding to customers in a piece called “What we found, What we are doing”.

 

 

3. Taking Action

An apology is meaningless unless swift, visible action is taken to right the wrong and acknowledge customer concerns.

 

In 1990 Perrier water voluntarily withdrew its product worldwide, some 160 million bottles, after an isolated incident in a plant in North Carolina found traces of Benzene, a carcinogen, in several bottles.

 

 Perrier Mineral Water 600px

 

Despite the incident being identified as a mistake in the filtering procedure and effecting only a small number of bottles, the brand’s worldwide response was instrumental in alleviating consumer concern and maintaining trust. Thirteen years later and the brand’s reputation has emerged stronger than ever.

 

Kevin Clash was the voice and puppeteer behind Sesame Street’s Elmo; a character deemed to be responsible for a significant portion of the company’s profits from merchandise and affiliate products. With over 23 years in the job, Clash was seen to be instrumental behind Elmo’s success. It was believed that Elmo’s mannerisms were a projection of Clash’s sensibilities and that it would be impossible to have one with out the other.

 

 Sesame Street Elmo

 

When allegation of Clash’s past sexual relations with minors emerged Clash was forced to resign in order to preserve the brand. The potential concern of parents was seen as a greater risk to the brand than the loss of Clash.

  

Safeguarding your brand from crisis starts by being proactive and doing your due diligence when it comes to managing suppliers, hiring employees, and choosing brand representatives.

Surviving a crisis is about accountability, transparency and positive action.

 

• Is your brand strong enough to stage a comeback if crisis hits?

 

• Do you have a robust and well thought out brand crisis management plan?

 

Brand Commoditization : How Safe is Your Brand?

A question to ponder this week… What would your customer’s identify as the number one reason for buying your brand?

 

If the answer is ‘low price’ or ‘convenience’ your brand could be at major risk of becoming just another commodity brand; a very risky position for any brand to be in.

 

When it comes to commoditization, no industry is safe.  Whether you produce consumer products or supply professional services, when your customers can no longer differentiate your offering from that of your competitors it puts the company’s success and profitability in jeopardy.

 

Commoditization is a never ending reality in business today. No matter how hard a successful brand works to be different, their competitors are working equally hard to replicate it.

 

Markets are awash with ‘me too’ products. Customer choice has never been greater online and offline. Brands need to be very proactive in reinforcing their differentiating factors to their customers i.e. the reasons why their customers should choose them. But without a truly unique product or service that process is becoming more and more difficult.

 

 

Is Your Brand At Risk?

How easily can you quantify the differences between your products and services from those of your competitors? Think then about how easily your customers and prospective clients can make the same distinction? What’s your big why for your brand? What does it stand for?

 

When the tangible differences between competing brands diminish, the danger of commoditization grows. But all is not lost. Many brands enjoy a sustainable longevity in their market, despite aggressive copycatting, and do so by identifying the broader value offered by their brands.

 

Articulating the extended intangible values of your brand creates a tougher opposition for competitors. Replicating a product is easy, replicating a brand identity is not.

 

 

5 Ways To Safeguard Your Brand Against Commoditization

 

1. Brand Values

The first step for any company in safeguarding against commoditization is to use internal knowledge to identify the company’s broader value. Take time to consider the intangible benefits of your brand, the perceived benefits to customers, and the desired emotive response when someone experiences the brand. Think back to the very beginning and refocus on the brand identity. What were the core values that established the brand?   

 

 Steve Jobs Apple

 

Apple’s strength lies not just in innovation but on a dedication to producing a high quality product. Their product prices are amongst the highest on the market but their willingness to lose a portion of market on price reaffirms their dedication to their core value of quality and establishes their brand identity in the mind of the consumer.

 Customer Experience

  

2. Relationships

Tangible elements are easy to replicate. Strong brands succeed in developing strong relationships with their customers. Leverage face-to-face interactions and social media to learn more about your customer and start a dialogue that fosters a meaningful relationship that extends beyond the brand experience. 

 

3. Leverage the Corporate Brand

The corporate brand often has sustainable equity. Leveraging the corporate reputation and trust can deliver broader value to product brands and help shape a comprehensive offering to customers that extends beyond the product service attributes.

 

 O Egg White Eggs Icograda

 

4. Package Design

Innovative packaging that creates an aesthetic beyond function can help increase perceived value to the customer and enhance market share. The O’Egg brand focused on package differentiation to turn a commodity product into the pre-eminent egg brand in Ireland. 

 

5. Brand Experience

When a product or service is easily replicated, innovating brand intangibles can strengthen the position of the brand and protect it from the threat of commoditization.

 

 Apple Customers Queue Ny

 

Think differently about your business. Change how its’ perceived. A unique service area, outstanding customer support, or special loyalty rewards can set your brand apart.

 

Starbucks’ strength grew from creating a brand experience around a commodity product. What set the brand apart were the various elements that nurtured the customer’s experience of the brand; from the service setting, to the coffee ordering system, to the interactions with staff. They changed the way the world ordered coffee.

 Starbucks Commoditization

  

Global giant that it is, Starbucks is now under threat because the brand experience has become the commodity and the Starbucks focus has drifted to profit margins and market growth rather than extending customer value. The brand is currently in the process of returning their focus to their core value, putting the customer’s coffee experience at the heart of their operations again.

 

 

One of the biggest problems that lead to a weakening of brand equity is a lack of awareness in the company of the causes of commoditization. 

 

Businesses end up spending valuable resources on updating products and expanding product lines without having a real understanding as to what their customer’s really need and value.

 

 Customer Service

 

• When was the last time you surveyed your customers or researched your market properly?

 

• Do you really know what’s happening at grass roots level in your market?

  

• Do you need a brand audit?

  

In short, how safe is your brand?

Do You Know How to Mitigate Risk to Your Brand? Watch to find out more…

I recently spoke at the Cyber Threat Summit 2012 which took place in Dublin, host to over 600 delegates from around the world and thought some of the content presented might be of interest to those of you concerned about managing your brand under threat.

  

The talk was focussed on enhancing attendee understanding of brands, how they work, what they are and how, when properly understood, they can be leveraged to mitigate risk and manage it effectively when in jeopardy or exposed to negative market sentiment.

 

At its most fundamental if you and your team can’t simply articulate what your brand stands for and what makes you different to your competition then you’re already at a significant disadvantage. 

 

 

  

Why you might ask, well you can’t adequately protect your No.1 asset if you don’t understand it and the dynamics of your market, key stakeholders and customers alike. 

 

Most importantly you are also potentially financially under performing and commercially vulnerable, in short leaving money on the table, as you slide into commoditisation and genericization because you haven’t developed and leveraged your brand to its full potential.

 

Watch to find out more. 

 

Feel free to leave your comments or get in touch  E: brand@personadesign.ie

We’d love to hear your views.