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Brands under fire: ‘Brands need to be co-owned by consumers’

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Brands under fire: ‘Brands need to be co-owned by consumers’

No matter how big your brand becomes or how big your company is, things can still go wrong. This has been proved over the years by respected brands like Cadburys Dairy Milk Chocolates, Coca-Cola and Pepsi, to name a few, that were hit by major problems of worms in chocolates and pesticides in soft drinks.

The tenth anniversary celebrations to honour Subhas Ghosal saw the official launch of the book ‘Brands under Fire’ on March 24 in Mumbai. The book has been edited by Post Ivan Arthur and Kurien Mathews and published by Penguin Portfolio. Prasoon Joshi, Executive Chairman and Regional Creative Director Asia Pacific, McCann Erickson, delivered the Subhas Ghosal Lecture on the occasion, and spoke on ‘Brands under Fire’ citing instances from all over the world and his own experience at Coca-Cola.

Joshi spoke of various kinds of fire, beginning with ‘Core Competence Fire’, which is a fire that is difficult to deal with. Peripheral fire, on the other hand, is where your ethics are questioned, and all people who have dealt with this fire have realised that what they are going through is true and apologised for their mistakes, because taking action is very important.

According to Joshi, “Any brand that is going through fire needs to face the problem and show that action has been take, because taking action to the problem or fire shows that you care and advertising, I believe, can play a role here.”

“If you have an invisible wound, then there will be no sympathy, therefore, you need to show your consumer that you too are hurt, and advertising, I believe, is the only way that allows you to put your point of view forward and show that you are hurt and that you care for them,” he added.

Joshi cited the example of Coca-Cola at the time when it was facing the pesticide controversy. He admitted that it was not the ‘Thanda Matlab Coca Cola’ ad (which simply said that there was nothing wrong with Coke) that did better and worked in favour of the brand, but the second advertisement, which showed its consumers the process of making the beverage. In this case, the brand spoke directly to the consumers, thus showing that it cared about them and assured that the beverage was prepared after umpteen tests.

He continued, “In today’s era, building shock absorbers is not easy as your consumers are co-owners of your brand. In fact, today it is no longer a televised performance, but your brand has to do live performance and thus build a shock absorber.”

He concluded by saying, “It is high time your brand is co-owned by your consumers, and if that happens, you will also find them coming to your rescue and standing in your defense. Time is not a good healer any longer, but it is your action eventually that will extinguish your fire.”

The book ‘Brands under Fire’ deals with case studies of brands that have gone through fire and how they dealt with it. The book aims to submit fresh insights into the brands of the 21st century.


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