A brand is a primarily mental conception helping consumers distinguish one company from another. This intangible value is fundamental for the sustainability of a company’s business, as many factors for success gravitate around it: the company’s reputation, image, ethics, know-how, the trust placed in it by customers, etc. In a world of globalization and social networks, reputation crises travel faster and further than ever before, and companies often have to redouble their efforts to maintain their pristine brand image.
Safeguarding brand reputation
“The two most important things in any company do not appear in its balance sheet: its reputation and its people,” said Henry Ford. Carefully cultivated, a solid reputation quickly becomes a significant advantage that increases sales, attracts talent, partners and suppliers. A negative reputation has the opposite consequence and negatively impacts the value of the company. It is here that counterfeiting can have very harmful consequences, because of the direct loss of sales, yes, but perhaps more significantly, because consumers associate the poor-quality of a product with the output of the company as a whole. Employees will also find it easier to commit to and be proud of a strong and powerful brand. In that sense, one’s reputation is not to be taken lightly.
Social media complexity
While all communication channels are relevant, the ones where things happens fastest and spread most quickly are social media. Bad publicity can be difficult to contain, as Pepsi found out in 2017 with its ill-advised ad featuring Kendall Jenner. The video triggered a backlash on social media with users denouncing the appropriation of protest movements to sell soda. Criticism was fierce, but more importantly spread very fast. Pepsi apologized and removed the lambasted ad. Social networks also make bad publicity difficult to get rid of: as, since the advertisement is broadcast and shared across many social networks, it can still be viewed by any internet user at any time and continues to damage the brand’s image long after the initial ad has been pulled.
Thinking outside the box
To meet the new challenges of the digital age, companies have to redouble their efforts and think creatively when their brand’s reputation is endangered. Mounting an aggressive defense can backfire whereas poking fun at oneself often works better. American beer Bud Light understood this well when a competitor, Modist Brewing, copied its “Dilly Dilly” beer. It sent a man dressed as a town crier to deliver a cease and desist letter to Modist Brewing’s offices saying they could not use this name, as it was the “motto of the Bud Light realm.” Another example of using humor as a public relations tool was when the comedian Roseanne Barr sought to explain away a racist tweet by saying she was under the influence of Ambien at the time she sent it. Drawn into the scandal, Sanofi, the makers of the drug, ridiculed: “while all pharmaceutical treatments have side effects, racism is not a known side effect of any Sanofi medication.”