We hear about brand all the time, and some folks are convinced that it is nothing more than an opportunity for the marketing community to spend your money on expensive media. It’s true that garnering and maintaining brand awareness is no cheap proposition, but in reality, brand is a whole lot more than a money pit. Brand can actually save your company.
How is that possible? Let’s take a look at two different brands that had solidly cemented their brand identity before scandal knocked at their door. I refer to the Johnson & Johnson brand Tylenol and the New York Times.
Each brand suffered through scandal that cast doubt on the efficacy of their very core, yet each brand emerged without suffering any longterm ill effects. Was that luck? Not even close, that was the strength of their respective brands. I remember both incidents vividly, and I would have bet money that these brands would have faltered and ultimately died. Good thing I didn’t. These incidents taught me a valuable lesson about brand power.
The Tylenol scandal occurred in 1982, when several tainted bottles of the painkiller were bought by unsuspecting consumers in Illinois. Seven deaths occurred as a result of potassium cyanide poisoning. The innocuous painkiller had itself become a killer. The nationwide panic that ensued would have been devastating for most companies. For Tylenol, however, it was a mere blip in a brand that still functions successfully today. How is that possible?
A strong brand supported by a quick and meaningful response was able to save this iconic brand from extinction. They were a trusted household name and while there was some fallout, some people took an extreme and negative stance, they barely skipped a beat before returning to their trusted status. That’s the power of brand.
Next, we’ll look at the New York Times, the archetypal source of sophisticated news, a household name. They missed a beat in 2003 when forced to acknowledge that one of their star reporters, Jayson Blair, had been both plagiarizing and fabricating the news. How could the holy grail of news permit such a blatant breach of trust and survive? This is yet another example of the sheer power of brand. Consumers were able to forgive their golden calf.
These are two of many examples of brands that have survived catastrophe thanks to the strength of their brand. Think your company is immune from that kind of reversal? That’s what we’d all like to think. We recommend strengthening your brand as much as you’re able, and hope that you never have to rely on it for anything more than growth and loyalty.