In September 2015 the Volkswagen Group was found to have been making so as to…
Recently, Volkswagen was in the news for faking its emissions test results to meet the required standards. This led to a global scandal and share prices of VW fell steeply. This is not the first time when a global power brand has done something insanely stupid to hurt its own brand in the long term. Yeah, the executives who did this must have thought that they’ll never get caught but karma catches up. What we can learn from Volkswagen is that if you are a brand then you have to know that there are no shortcuts. You may rapidly rise to popularity with a few carefully made corporate maneuvers but there are far too many parameters to bring you down just as fast.
What happened to Nestle in India is not funny at all. Nestle has faced serious allegations of negligence, misrepresentation and risking consumer health in many countries including America. You can find a long list of legal controversies with Nestle but the brand has survived every onslaught and still remains one of the biggest multi-nationals around the world. I think that sometimes competition also tries to hurt you with made up charges but if they frequently find incarcerating evidences against your brand then you’ve got a real problem. You may have the money to fight legal battles but is that the legacy you want to build?
In cases of a brand facing bad publicity, there is a fight or flight response from the business that is under fire. More often than not, a big brand tries to fight the situation with arrogance. This could turn into a disaster as most brand communication today enters into a public domain instantly. Social media is a force that is as easily malevolent as it is benevolent and it takes little time to develop an enemy image against a corporate that seems to be at fault. Quite frankly, people have learned to distrust big corporate brands and no matter how hard you try, it’s hard to get that out of the collective conscious. When we talk about case studies like Ford Pinto where the price of a human life was pitched against the cost of implementing the safety features, people’s attitudes become somewhat justified. After all why should people trust your brand?
It is difficult to maintain a brand’s legacy over a long period of time. As Harvey Dent observes in Dark Knight “You either die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain”. Brands can not continue to live in perpetual cash cow status. At some point all business take on some bad cultures, or maybe those bad cultures were part of your brand’s ethos from the very beginning but you just didn’t notice them until people started hating you. At that stage you have only one option – to re-invent your brand and move on. If in 60s and 70s certain automobile brands made gold by selling muscle cars that were gas guzzlers, you can’t expect to maintain that legacy in the 21st century when economy has completely changed. Today, such a legacy will only be associated with corrupt behaviours of corporate affluence. Surely, taking up a more environment friendly image is the need of the hour, no matter how niche your customer segment is.
Technology is on the higher ground right now but most people have started to understand that exclusivity is just a marketing trick. When comedian Bill Burr berated the “Nerd Jesus” Steve Jobs for his so called inventions, he had a strong point to make. Consumer electronics, especially the gadgets contribute majorly to non-biodegradable pollution and is threatening the marine ecosystem in a big way. When a brand with it’s virtue of technological advancement forces the consumers to discard perfectly working devices for newer models, it inadvertently accelerates the issue of waste disposal. It may not rub off on the brand but someday it will come back to haunt everyone. From Steve Wozniak’s notorious tight lip about Jobs to depicting the brutality inherent in Apple’s brand culture, everything adds up. It’s only a matter of time when the legacy reveals a brand’s true nature.
How do you think a brand can best survive it’s legacy? Which aspects of the brand legacy of the brands mentioned here need to be discarded or reinvented? Let me know in your comments.
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