Is Fear Killing Your Brand?

It's common knowledge that bad news drives up news-media ratings. Lately, this recipe has produced a bonanza: take several years of economic growth whipped into a froth with hyper-inflated real estate values and sub-prime lending to over-extended people; add a handful of greed; mix with an extraordinary election year; fold in "the war" that brims with uncertainty; and top with major car manufacturers tapping Congress for bailouts ... and voila! The media has a menu full of doom-and-gloom stories they force-feed to the public.

Those of us who live and breathe the world of branding and innovative marketing have much to consider here. Why should anyone care about brands in times like these? Because it's during these times of transition, internally or through market shifts, that businesses simultaneously have the highest level of vulnerability and opportunity. Those responsible for shaping and maintaining a brand have much more influence over whether the current news climate weakens or strengthens their brand than they may realize.



Human nature causes us to be motivated more by what we may lose than what we have to gain. The problem is that the prospect of loss triggers a fight-or-flight reaction, which can lead to profoundly unproductive decisions. It's vital to do a gut-check during times of transition, because what our brain perceives as threats may actually be opportunities. Attention to underlying brand values and integrity in expressing those values are always critical disciplines, but authenticity and integrity during times of transition make the difference between whether a brand is vulnerable or getting stronger.

Vulnerability. Brand vulnerability is a by-product of fear. When our fight-or-flight wiring perceives a threat coming we react to it instinctively - unless we know better. The higher the fear-factor among company decision makers, the more susceptible a brand is to external pressures that can separate people and companies from their internal principles. When people are unclear about the core identity of their brand, un-centered about what the brand stands for, and untrained as to how to effectively deal with outside influences, the brand is weakened. The natural inclination to react to competition and market changes can easily tip into over-reaction.

Opportunity. Knowing who we are guides what we should do. This is the same for a person as it is for a company. Confidence comes from knowing your center and holding to it. Uncertainty brings tests that are often difficult to anticipate, but organizational cultures that commit to defining, understanding and living with a centered awareness of their identity navigate through challenging times with poise and assurance. When a company resists the urge to react too drastically to external influences and acts with integrity from its center it demonstrates to the world that it is a value-centered brand. Opportunity to strengthen your brand during times of transition stems from knowing who you truly are.

Keep it real. While reconnecting with authentic values is a crucial first step, it's only as valuable as the integrity with which your brand is being expressed in every encounter. Countless businesses pour resources into world-class "look & feel" and ignore the client's experience. Worse, companies sometimes get so side-tracked by external pressure that they force employees to abandon their own internal compass to achieve results that have nothing to do with company values. Enron ring a bell?

Napoleon said, "The role of the leader is to define your reality and give hope." Defining your reality starts with a deep understanding of who you are. During these times when the media is fueling the fire of fear, fear not. If you know your brand values you will continue to make decisions from your brand center. If you find that the heart rate of your culture is palpitating, do a gut check and ask yourself: are you reacting to the world of hype around you, or are you acting from the best interest of your brand? MORRIS is a cross-media branding firm specializing in work for youth and young adult audiences. The Mining Company is the brand and culture consulting arm to MORRIS. To discover more about the services at Morris check us out at: - or call us at 877 234 1211. by Steven Morris: Editor's note: If you'd like to contribute to this newsletter, contact Nina Lentini.

1 comment about "Is Fear Killing Your Brand? ".
Check to receive email when comments are posted.
  1. Celine Horan, March 2, 2009 at 8:31 a.m.

    Yes, it all boils down to consistent, calm communication in a crisis. Smart companies who take responsibility by 'listening' to their public's fears; then reacts by communicating in a way that shows they understand where they are coming from, is a smart company indeed.

Next story loading loading..