Friday, 8 October 2010

Making the right decisions when it all goes pear shaped

Last night I was at a Question Time-style session organised by The Marketing Society. It was lively, engaging, funny, frustrating and highly entertaining. There were some smart cookies in the audience as well as on the panel. One question that particularly interested me was: “What leadership qualities are needed to repair a damaged brand?”

Brands get damaged for all sorts of reasons – but mostly because something has gone horribly, horribly wrong. You’ve not delivered on your brand promise. BP, Toyota, Royal Mail, BA have all recently had operational problems that have tarnished their marketing image. So what to do? Is it a question of spending more on marketing, PR, sponsorship? Or as is being suggested for BP, changing your name in several countries?

Or is it a question of communicating?

When things go wrong at home, communication is normally at the heart of the problem. And so it is with brands.

When it all goes pear shaped, communicating clearly, honestly and openly about what’s happened is usually the best route. Food companies have become well-rehearsed with this. From time to time something gets into the product that shouldn’t. The press love it, and the marketing people have hysterics. But we all goof up from time to time. And explaining what happened, what you are going to do to put it right, how you will reduce the risk of it happening again – all go a long way to reassuring your customers. That, and saying sorry.

Nothing as simple as this came back as an answer to the questioner’s insightful probe. What do you think? How do great leaders repair damage to their valuable brands?

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