Brand Story- “Happily ever after”? Not always !


A brand for a company is like a reputation for a person. You earn reputation by trying to do hard things well. -Jeff Bezos

Just the name and you can picture the whole scene. That’s what a brand does for you. A brand can stand in a crowd and be assured that people will coming looking for it- People had lined up 4 days before the launch of apple iphone 5. Brands make you go nuts! But is a brand created in a day? Is it easy? Is only coming up with a new product enough for becoming a big brand in the market. NO! It takes a lot of time, money and very hard work to build and maintain great brands. It happens over a long time. Customer satisfaction and the reliability of the product matters a lot while creating a brand. The company need to constantly make sure and also convince its customers that it is unique with its product. The brand needs to ensure that the name stays on everyone’s mind. But does defaming a brand take as much hard work as establishing it? Can simply bad-mouthing a brand bring it down?

In 2009, United Airlines a big name in the airline industry of U.K, suffered a loss of 180$ million i.e., almost 10% of it s market cap. Why? It was because of a video that went viral on Youtube. In 2008,  Musician Dave Carroll while travelling through the airline found that his $3,500 Taylor guitar broke while in United Airlines custody.  Carroll then filed a claim with United Airlines which informed him that he was not eligible for compensation as he had failed to make the claim within the stipulated “standard 24-hour timeframe”. Carrol tried to negotiate for nine months, but all in vain. So, then he wrote a song and made a video about the experience. And named it United breaks Guitar with lyrics like “I should have flown with someone else, or gone by car, ’cause United breaks guitars. He went on to release two more videos in the subsequent years. The video has had 13 million hits and within days of it becoming viral, United Airlines shares started dropping. This is one classic example of brand destruction, wherein a company’s carelessness with the assets of a customer and later not acknowledging their fault made them look bad in the people’s eye. The world has shrunk in its size. Reaching millions has become easy. Today you post one comment on facebook or twitter or any other social networking site, it is out for viewing by everyone. This trend is a boon not only for the marketers of a brand but also for the defamers of the same.  Just imagine what a strong post about a negative aspect of a brand can do to the brand. It may not affect the company too much, but when it starts losing out some potential customer, there is always a probability that it may lose some more.  People today are more connected and more expressive thanks to social media. This has made it even more important for companies to maintain a good customer relation, because one bad move and it will be on the net within minutes!

But other than social media being a reason, brand can lose its brand value for one more reason. Brand association is also one more reason. Even the segment of market that seems to be more inclined towards it can destroy the name. One example of this is the clothing label, Burberry. In the mid-2000s, the company’s products became more popular among “chavs”.


Sometimes upscale products or brands become popular among a less desirable group or clientele. Such a shift is often called proletarian drift. This is what happened to Burberry. At that time the Company’s image changed- the signature Burberry check print went from being a sign of discreet wealth to one of vulgar ostentation. 


One way to avoid such a problem is to have a precisely prepared brand architecture. You could divide your brand into discrete ranges that would target different groups. If you look at other big brands such as Armani, they do this pretty well and are able to distinguish between their prime products and their more commercial offerings. Burberry’s simple range was one of its biggest problems.

With Youtube and so many review sites, a company’s visibility has increased drastically. People are all the time sitting online, writing blogs after blogs of the products that they are using in a very critical manner. One bad review and it’s out there for thousands to see it. One unhappy customer and the annoying incident can reach people at an exponential pace. In such a situation there is a high probability that the company might not even know about this silent but effective attack.

So now the question arises what to do now? People are defaming your brand, they are spreading the word. You will not sit quietly and watch all your hard work go down the drain, because of one small mistake. The distance between a brand story and its audience has become so small today that each company has to make sure that themselves are a part of this story and can twist the story in their favour. Some suggestions from my side would be:

i. The company should hire some people whose job specifically is to monitor social network and when they see such an activity, they should report take action ASAP. They could post a comment on the thread that highlights the brand’s positivity. It has been found out that it takes somewhat 22 seconds to make something viral. These 22 seconds should be used as judiciously as possible. For that to happen, the company has to be very very proactive on the internet. Delivery of the response should be well-orchestrated and all outgoing communications should be within the company’s guidelines.

ii. The employees, who are the face of any company, should be in love with the company. They should act as brand ambassador. They should walk the talk when it comes to company policies. They should simply live the brand. They should be trained well and be clear about their responsibilities. A good HR should ensure that.

Have a plan B…..C,D,E! When someone tries to belittle the brand, the company should be ready to take it on. Not having a plan would be the worst ever excuse in such a case.

A product becomes a brand when people fall in love with it. A heartbreak won’t happen if there’s no reason for it to happen. A company should make sure that it gives its customer enough reasons to continue loving the brand.  If it’s not a brand, it’s a commodity. The company should choose what it wants to be.


[The article has been written by Mamsha Rath. She is currently pursuing MBA from XIMB, Bhubaneswar, prior to which she has worked with TCS for 11 months. ]


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