Brands that live their values are examples to follow. Those that don’t, suck.

by Tony Fannin, President, BE Branded

I want to make a commentary on how companies should truly bring their brands to life and back it up with real, honest actions. Too many companies have generic, uninspiring mission statements and values that blabber on about, “Tradition of excellence. Utmost integrity. Go above and beyond.” And my favorite, “Exceed expectations.” In fact, I’ve worked at some of these clueless companies. Unfortunately, in today’s turbulent business environment, too many brands and CEO’s have failed at living up to their stated values.

Big time brand failures
• Goldman Sachs – In congressional hearings about the real estate meltdown, Lloyd Blankfein, CEO of Goldman Sachs, never apologized for their actions of shorting against their clients and the markets they were making. In fact, they hardly took any responsibility for almost anything. Instead of living their stated brand values of “Our client’s interest always comes first.” and “Integrity and honesty are at the heart of what we do.”, Lloyd Blankfein and Goldman Sachs didn’t put their client’s interest first when it came to hedging against them. Also, he failed at the opportunity to demonstrate integrity and honesty by denying he did anything wrong. Obviously, Lloyd Blankfein only believes in living Goldman’s brand values when it is convenient. Grade: F

• BP – In the Gulf Oil Spill of 2010, BP kept denying they were at fault and refused to take action until the mounting evidence was too hard to ignore. Then they “sprung” into action, set up funds, and began the task of clean up. Why did it take so long for them to live their brand values and just do the right thing? Regardless of who’s fault it was (theirs, their suppliers, the neighbor kid down the street, etc.) they should have stepped up, take the heat, and began communicating their commitment to do right by their customers and shareholders. Their own “Code of Conduct” includes: commitment to integrity and being responsible to the communities and societies in which they operate in. Too bad it took a mountain of evidence and huge public pressure before BP begrudgingly lived up to their brand. Grade: F

An all-to-rare exception
• Johnson & Johnson
– In 2010, J&J was hit with problems to some of their top brands including Children’s Tylenol, Benadryl, and Sudafed, just to name a few. It was discovered, their manufacturing partner, McNeil, had contaminated equipment that allowed bacteria to infect the products. Like BP, Johnson & Johnson wasn’t “technically” at fault, it was one of their suppliers. Unlike BP, they took full blame and responsibility. During the congressional hearing that followed, Colleen A. Goggins, Senior VP of Global Consumer products and CEO, William Weldon did something that Lloyd Blankfein didn’t have the balls to do. Their initial statement was an apology to the mothers, patients, caregivers, and medical professionals for letting them down and endangering their loved ones. They went on to say, Johnson & Johnson takes full responsibility for the danger and will take full responsibility to fix the problem. J&J also did a voluntary, global recall of all products that were suspected to be contaminated. This is one company who lived their brand of “putting the needs and well-being of the people we serve, first.” Sounds like Goldman’s, except they actually lived it. It didn’t take a mountain of evidence nor are they still in denial like BP and Goldman Sachs. They believe in their brand and actually walked the talk. Grade: A

The point is no brand is perfect. If you’re in business long enough, you will fail, many times. What makes a brand real and authentic is what they do when things do go wrong. Will you live the stated values your brand proclaims or will you be a coward and show the world that your brand stands for nothing?


About Be Branded

Tony Fannin is of President of BE Branded, an integrated marketing firm who helps clients BE Somebody to their customers. If you aren't somebody, then you are commodity.

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