What’s your brand reputation worth?

They used to say any publicity is good publicity. But, as we've seen from the mistakes of some big names - consumers are quick to remind you when bad publicity hurts, as Paul Clegg from Coconut Marketing explains.

What’s your brand reputation worth?

They used to say any publicity is good publicity. But, as we’ve seen from the mistakes of some big names – consumers are quick to remind you when bad publicity hurts, as Paul Clegg from Coconut Marketing explains.

Did you know one of the most valuable assets of any brand, especially when it comes to franchise recruitment, is its reputation. Which is why it’s so important for you to cultivate the right image about your franchise. Who you are is represented by the content you post, the content your network posts, and your user-generated content.

One thing we’re seeing, no matter how big the brand, or how nice the people, when it goes wrong it’s spectacular, and the impact can be devastating.

  • Recently, we’ve seen brands like Bud Light, reading the room wrongly, and wiping billions off their company value in the process.
  • What you say to your target audience matters, as Airline Lufthansa discovered when they introduced higher “green fares”, which they claimed could be offset against 100% of their travel, and reduce their carbon footprint. They release an advert stating how they are helping to protect the world with their green policies. It was banned by the Advertising Standards Agency, and climate-change advocates disputed their green fare claims.
  • It can also be as simple as your copy being lost in translation, if you’re trying to expand internationally. More than one brand has been caught out by using the wrong words, in the new country, which don’t mean what they do in the UK. Like, one fried chicken franchise who tried using their famous slogan, when they expanded into China in the late 1980s: A big oops when they realised “Finger-lickin’ good,” translated as “Eat your fingers off”. Words matter!
  • The industry you operate in can also impact your brand. If there’s bad press about your industry, rightly or wrongly, then even if you’re not part of the issue, you’ll be seen as such when people read stories in the press. As was the case for the baby scanning industry at the beginning of the year. This is because people want to associate with the right brands, in the right industries.

If I‘ve said it once, I’ve said it a billion times: your target audience rules!

If you’re trying to attract the right kind of people into your network, you need to make sure you’re using the right kind of messaging which will appeal to them. This includes righting the wrongs, and tackling the bad PR, as much as it’s about proclaiming the good.

When thinking about a franchise brand to be associated with, your target audience is looking at more than just what you present to them. In fact, we often see people only engage with a brand towards the end of their search journey, not at the start. They’ve been watching you for a while, comparing you to your competitors, looking at what’s said or written about you online. Only when they feel as though they can align with you, as a brand, will they make the decision to reach out.

As one of our clients has discovered, “One thing I’ve noticed over the last 12 months, as I’ve been guest-lecturing in colleges, is the younger generation’s primary focus is on sustainability. They’ll buy from a company based on its mindset, but only if it aligns with theirs.” (Paul Paquette, President, InXpress Canada)

So what can we do?

Take control! All the control freaks reading this are now rejoicing!! But it’s true – if you want your target audience to see the value of your brand, sometimes you’ll need to tackle the bad press and not hide away from it. Your target audience will be well aware of what’s being said about you as a brand, so there’s no point in hiding from the reality in the hope of avoiding the issue.

Here’s what I would recommend:

Regularly search your brand online

Don’t look for the content you put out there, you’re looking for other types of content: from disgruntled customers, to bad reviews. Even for your brand culture which is being represented by your network! Then: respond! Speak to anyone in the network who isn’t behaving within the realm of your culture. If there are negative reviews on social media drown the out with kindness: Encourage happy customers to post positive reviews.

Regularly listen out for industry-related news

If something positive is being said about the industry you operate in, use it to your advantage to show how running a franchise with you correlates with the news coming out. If its negative, but not about your brand specifically, you can still use it to your advantage. Show how your franchise operates differently, how your franchisees care about what they do, and they industry/people they’re impacting – but don’t call out your competitors!

If you make a mistake, own it an apologise

As I said, your target audience will be well aware of it, so don’t just delete it and hope it goes away… own it, apologise and try again. Consumers love brands who are authentic. They will appreciate you more when you take ownership, and apologise… but, as we’ve seen with other PR disasters, the apology has to be authentic, too. Consumers quickly analyse what you say, and will make a decision if they don’t like it.

Marketing – specifically brand building – can be a fun journey. But it can also be a minefield! We’ve learned some interesting lessons over the 20 years we’ve been operating, and can share some stories! So, if we can help you with your brand messaging, don’t hesitate to contact me, or any of the team.

Paul Clegg
Paul Clegg