Brands are not built overnight, and once a trusted brand loses it equity, it is a Herculean task to rebuild that equity. While it is debatable whether a brand can regain its lost glory, corrective measures are definitely required, and that too immediately. Some leading brand and marketing consultants share their insights on rebuilding a tainted brand with exchange4media.
3-point agenda to resurrect a tainted brand
Giving his ‘Brand Mantra’, Jagdeep Kapoor, Chairman and Managing Director, Samsika Marketing Consultants, said, “If a brand is tainted, it needs to be freshly painted.”
According to him, the company first needed to accept that there was a problem. “Such an acceptance is the starting point. If the company is in denial, then the turnaround cannot happen. In this acceptance stage, it is important that the company goes to the root cause of why the problem took place. It could range from breaking of a promise, non-performance, dissatisfaction, a quality issue, credibility issue, related to a few employees to bad intention. Only when a thorough scan is made as to what was the reason will there be acceptance and one could move towards the next step,” he added.
Kapoor continued, “Second, would be to find the remedy and solution, and do it at the actual and the perceptual level. Depending on the cause, the appropriate corrective action would have to be taken. It is also important that certain processes are put in place so that this problem does not happen again.”
“The third and final step would be dialogue. This means that one would have to speak and communicate to consumers and tell the truth. One would have to transparent, accept the mistakes, share the remedy and regularly communicate about the progress. The consumers would have to be requested to give one more opportunity or chance to serve them well,” he concluded.
Harish Bijoor, CEO, Harish Bijoor Consultants Inc, was of the opinion that though the scar would remain on a tainted brand as a shadow, but bulk of it could be cleared by following three steps.
Enumerating the three steps, Bijoor said, “First and foremost, I think, is winning back of the trust of the people. In a case like Satyam, a one-to-one dialogue with clients should be undertaken and restoring the confidence of the people involved.”
“Second, is to offer a mechanism, thereby making integrity the backbone of the brand and company. Third, for at least the next three years, the brand should become as transparent as possible so that people who are looking at the brand can begin to view it as a cuddly little toy that they want to embrace,” he added.
R Sridhar, CEO, brand-comm, is not sure if a tainted brand can reach its heyday, but it can surely be rebuilt. The extent of the success of the rebuilding brand, according to him, also depends on the nature of the damage caused to the brand.
Said Sridhar, “Branding is an experience, and there is a certain expectation when one buys a brand. There is immediate shock when the brand doesn’t behave in a way it is expected to. The first then on agenda is to restore its credibility.”
He further said, “Second, is to identify its core TG, like for instance, for a corporate brand the TG would comprise employees, investors and customers. It is critical to talk to the employees and ensure that by and large the team stays intact. As the customers are linked to the team, talking to the employees would help in this aspect too. Hence, focus should be on internal communication.”
The third solution, according to Sridhar, is time, “as time only can heal the scars”.
For brand consultant Anand Narasimha, brands were like relationships that people shared, and just like friends and family forgave for a mistake, consumers do, too, if tangible measures were taken to rectify that mistake.
He stressed, “Brands should be truthful. In certain cases, when the damage has been caused inadvertently, then it easier to rebuild the brand name, which has happened in the case of the colas and also Cadbury’s. The task becomes difficult when the brand or its makers did the damage intentionally. This is because the basic foundation, which is trust, has been breached. The brand has to adopt a truthful and transparent approach.”
“Next step would be to take a rectifying action and show tangible steps to the consumers in that direction. And lastly, be extra careful in the future as the brand will be under the scanner,” Narasimha advised.
To sum up, being truthful and transparent is the key to the success of any brand. Though difficult, resurrecting a tainted brand is possible. However, it is related to the extent of the damage. It is not true that re-building an FMCG brand is easier than brands in any other sector, which have got a dent in their reputations. In case the damage seems irreparable, it makes sense to reposition or bring alive the brand in a new avatar. There are also cases where the damage is beyond redemption, like the case of Union Carbide and its role in the Bhopal gas tragedy.