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When It’s Time for Your Brand to Stand Up or Shut Up

Your brand is your personality. It’s how others see your company as a person — someone with whom a consumer can identify, and think of as a friend. As with life, your brand will be stalked by those who take that friendship for the identity to a weird, creepy level.

The rule for every dinner table, cocktail party, office, Facebook post, tweet, or Google+ post, lest your followers become a minus, should be; “no sexual, political, religious, or money discussions allowed.” There are other things people like to hear. Unfortunately, brand loyalty often falls upon consumers knowing the company brand stance on all of the taboo subjects that have nothing to do with how clean your dishes can be, or how less delicious your greasy hamburger would be if the brand didn’t meet your own ideals. Often a brand is called out to state an opinion, and sometimes someone at the top just can’t keep their mouth shut.

My Company — MY RULES!

Freedom of speech you say? True. It’s often followed by the freedom to buy another brand.

Recently, and it’s hard to keep track as brand blunders happen almost every day, the CEO of Barilla Pasta made a statement that caused the LGBT community, and straight supporters to blast the company via every social media channel for his views, and how it effected his business decisions.

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BANG! Not defensible, somewhat like the spin on a similar statement from the president of Chik-Fil-A, where it was argued that it was his personal opinion, did not reflect business practices, and appropriate apologies were issued. The Barilla statement targeted a group, stated the brand belief, which brought the business into the incident, and made it sound like a commitment for which no apology was ever necessary, or deserved. Perhaps this is why the follow up apologies are rarely, if ever, accepted by consumers. It’s time that wipes memories clean!

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Even just a foolish trip on Twitter, or using the wrong hashtag at the wrong time can be a disaster. Plenty of top corporations have had to do damage control after an innocent slip up, or moronic social media employee posted the wrong tweet because he/she thought they were on their own Twitter account. Yikes! Protecting one’s brand is a 24/7 job for not just outgoing social media, but also for inbound reactions.

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Brand Building Changes

Brands used to build loyalty sheerly upon the friendly, and popular feeling people got from using the product, based mostly on brilliant commercials, pushing a brand image. Who would want more?

In the modern, corporate world, donations are made, sometimes for tax reasons, but other times for philanthropic reasons. It is the recipient(s) of those charitable donations that can cause a brand bump if your base of consumer support doesn’t agree with the work of those charities. THAT has forced some very brave, and risky brand stance. Why are corporations starting to weigh in on hot issues, such as support of the LGBT community?

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“Businesses see more reward than risk in communicating their acceptance toward LGBT people. Companies that come out against DOMA want to reflect contemporary market attitudes,” says Bob Witeck, president of Witeck Communications, which advises corporations on LGBT issues.

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In her article, “Those Who Stand for Nothing Fall for Anything,” Tara Hunt writes:

“You can smell a brand who is following a formula or just follows advice and ‘best practice’ guidelines. Their voice is forced and weak. They won’t take a position. They are afraid of what others think. They define themselves by what they ARE NOT, but refuse to own who they ARE.”

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absolut-2The easiest explanation for such risks to one’s brand, is that no business can live within a self-controlled bubble anymore. Social context has now become the key to consumer brand loyalty. The current backlash of economics and politics, at least in the perception of consumers, make them want more control over large corporate entities. Don’t support MY beliefs? I’ll feel my power by not buying your product. It’s a self-affirmation for a society that feels more, and more helpless, and feel the companies that depend on consumer dollar power, can be bent to meet yet another step in the evolution of brand building — consumer political, and social opinions.

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There are also those who smell a conspiracy. Corporate support can wield a lot of power, and contributions do buy power. Of course, when it comes to brand awareness, some people believe store brands are just as good as name brands, but save money, and their eyes and ears are closed to any opinions, good or bad. Money does talk!

Top image ©GL Stock Images

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