Your founder creates a brand name that contains the letter "L" many times.
Why? So, to a Japanese buyer, it sounds western. (If you are unaware, the Japanese have difficulty pronouncing the letter "L.")
A decade after selling your first pair of pants, your IPO raises almost $328 million.
For three years in a row, your brand ends up on a majorpublication's list of fastest growing companies.
You become known for using "holistic guerrilla marketing."
You want your customer to feel that they are part of a larger community.
But then come the controversies.
One line of clothing made from seaweed provides "anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, hydrating and detoxifying benefits."
But independent lab tests disprove that claim. You have to stop claiming it.
Next, customers are complaining of poor quality. Products are falling apart after just a few uses.
Oops. Some of your reusable bags are recalled for containing high amounts of lead
Then, everyone's favorite media laugh-fest.
Turns out, a very expensive pair of pants is too thin. They become transparent. You recall 17% of your entire inventory.
Major cost. Bad press. The Chief Product Officer resigns.
Then, your founder mocks how Japanese customers pronounce the brand name.
(Remember all those instances of the letter "L"? What's he thinking?)
The founder is asked why there are no clothes for plus-size women.
He says it's because they're too expensive to make.
Customers complain about fabric pilling. The founder blames it on women wearing it wrong. And on having body shapes inconsistent with the clothing design.
He says some women's bodies are inconsistent with the brand's clothing.
When the founder is forced to resign, some folks are unsurprised.
Later, the founder publishes an open letter to shareholders.
He says the company is losing ground to competitors.
The founder launches a website specifically to criticize the company, which has lost its way.
(Based on what got him fired, I'm wondering: what was the company's way in the first place?)
And now, the latest media giggle...
The brand is being ridiculed for using that phrase.
That idea is one component of a "Decolonizing Gender" yoga workshop it promoted.
And that is how the firestorm of scorn and mockery comes raining down upon the brand.
It happened last week.
The brand is a lightning rod.
The media delights in whipping it. But what is the truth?
The truth is that the brand did not create the event.
A brand ambassador created it.
But the company shared it on their social media feeds.
It seems nobody in charge of social had the good sense to question the message vis à vis the brand.
Hello, communication overload!
In this over-fast, overcommunicated culture, many in charge of communicating are overwhelmed or underqualified.
Neither you nor I will ever have an international, multi-billion-dollar brand. (Nothing personal.)
Nonetheless, the small-business brands we do have are still judged by how they make people feel.
Our customers pay attention. How do our brands behave? How are our customers speaking of us?
The good news: at least this ridiculed brand is being talked about.
And as that gender-challenged gentleman from The Old Country once said, "There's only one thing worse in the world than being talked about, and that's not being talked about."
Yes, we have to be judicious about what we say and how we behave.
But we still have to do things that are worth talking about.
We each have to make our customer feel something.
We just have to hope we are being on-brand.
And not looking like idiots.
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Blaine Parker is prone to ranting about any and all things related to brand. In many ways, he is a professional curmudgeon. While there is no known vaccine for this, the condition is also not contagious. Unless you choose it to be so.