Manage a Brand Through Crisis From the Inside Out
We are big believers in inside-out branding. Whether it is building out your vision, values, and voice or ensuring that brand planning matches your company’s life stage, we fundamentally believe that if the brand does not live and breathe on the inside of the organization, few on the outside are going to believe in it. That is why we define branding as “the discipline that guides the way an organization thinks, acts and communicates.”
So when a business thinks, acts or communicates badly, what should they do?
Stringer Bell had one solution in the second season of The Wire, HBO’s classic series about drugs and the city of Baltimore. When their product (heroin) wasn’t as good as it used to be, they needed to get creative. Inspired by Worldcomm and its accounting scandal fraud and bankruptcy in the early 2000s, The Baltimore drug kingpin had his crew do the same thing many big brands do when they find themselves in trouble. They changed the name, they changed the packaging, and they tried some gimmicks to get back some goodwill.
But if it’s the right solution for a gang of drug dealers, is it right for your brand? Probably not.
Starting from scratch is an expensive proposition for a brand and should be a last resort kind of decision.
Last week in the Wall Street Journal, they looked at Tiger Woods as an example of this kind of thinking. They said “the lesson is clear: It’s almost always better to rebuild a brand than start anew.”
It’s bad business to discard a brand that cost decades and millions of dollars to build seems sound, that’s because it almost always is. Unless you’re U.K.-based Marks & Spencer, which had to change its “Isis” perfume to “Aqua,” or a search engine called “David and Jerry’s Guide to the World Wide Web” (appropriately renamed Yahoo!), branding experts say dance with the one that brung ya.
Consumers are increasingly well informed and savvy about brands, and they'll see through a superficial name change. If a company decides to scrap its brand and start over, it now has to completely reinvent itself and convince consumers that a substantive change in corporate values and operations has taken place.
Boeing can't just change its name to get out of the current dilemma they are suffering with their 737 MAX aircraft. Consumers will see right through that and call them out for it. Rather than investing a bunch of money in a name change, they'll be better off investing in organizational changes to ensure nothing like the current situation happens again and in a campaign to communicate the actions they're taking.
This really goes back to inside-out branding - you can't just say you're different, you have to actually BE different or consumers will know it.