Destroying a brand or creating a new one ?

A few years ago there was a news in papers that a dead worm was found in one of the chocolate bars of Dairy Milk chocolates. The unfortunate event got hyped and company’s sales dropped to such an extent that Dairy Milk had to undertake an advertisement campaign to erase the negative image in the minds of public. The event was detrimental but Dairy Milk was a brand big enough to survive such damage. In today’s competitive market others may not be so fortunate.
What really is a brand? It is surely more than just a name or a logo. It is identifier of the company and its products. It is the legacy of the company and its products which is carried in mind of customers. The brands we use are not just means to satisfy our needs but they symbolise who we are. It’s the reputation of the company which is identified by the brand name. Just like reputation it takes time and effort to build a brand but one unfortunate accident, one unthoughtful comment can destroy the brand.

Having said this, one medium which can both create or destroy any brand is the social media. In a global village where a large number of customers are connected via some digital form or the other, any news spreads like a wildfire. Even in poor and developing countries in Asia and Africa, the penetration of mobile phones is very high. In this situation, even a single unsatisfied customer badmouthing about the company can be disastrous. The effect gets multiplied when such customer interacts with thousands of others over social media platforms, blogs and virtual communities. Let’s take an example of a student having a bad opinion about some B-school. He shares his experience over a community like Pagalguy or MBAUniverse and comments start pouring in. A prospective student who is unaware if this college may read these posts and form a negative image of this college on his mind. This is brand destruction for that college. Same is true for service like hotels, network providers or any service providers for that matter.
In an over-competitive world this, we can never be too sure when one of the competitors will use these platforms to spread a bad word for its rivals. Though this is unethical, its possibility can never be completely denied. Many years ago when rumours arose of finding pesticide contents in a soft drink, no one could be sure whether those rumours were not sourced from one of its rival companies. Though sufficient clinical evidence was hardly found, the damage was done to the cola brand.
Personal posts like these may be looked upon as passing comments of a few disgruntled customers. But when a reputed organisation like S&P or Moody makes a comment/ judgement about credibility of a company, it can prove fatal to the brand. Credit ratings of these organisation are looked at with respect and worthiness worldwide and any drop in credit ratings of a company triggers a series of implications which spiral down the brand on path of destruction. Companies and even countries are very sensitive to such events.
More often than ever, an unthoughtful statement by a representative of a company can attract undue attention in media and can prove fatal to the brand-name. Many a times it results in resignation of the particular representative from the post of responsibility but the damage is seldom undone. This particular self-destruction phenomenon is more commonly found to occur in political campaigns around the world. A trivial unthoughtful comment getting hyped in media and causing a political party to loose elections can be very often seen in countries around the world from USA to India. Never has it been more important for a brand to live its values, walk the talk, deliver its promises, and avoid saying stupid stuff.
When we say brand, we are not only referring to products or companies. When two dozen companies offer hefty amounts to Amitabh Bacchan to become their brand ambassador, Amitabh himself is a brand. When Congress aspires to win election on the face value of Indira Gandhi, she is a brand in her herself. When Vilasrao Deshmukh comments after 26/11 attacks on Mumbai- ‘Bade bade shehron me aise choti choti baaten hoti rehti hai (such small things do happen in big cities like Mumbai)’ he is self-destructor of brand Vilasrao Deshmukh. No wonder he had to resign from his post of Home minister soon after the comment got spotlight in media. When state of Goa advertises for its tourism, it is creating a brand Goa. Any unfortunate incident with a tourist in Goa gets publicity and it is a destruction of brand Goa tourism.
The distance between people has shrunk to mere pixels and in future it is expected to shrink even more. Its marketing impact is tremendous. While this genie of connectedness can prove to be most worthy servant for the brands who know how to employ it, it can also be a destroyer of those who fail to follow its rules. 
[The article has been written by Chinmay Ingole. He is presently pursuing his MBA from NMIMS, Mumbai. ]

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