Brands are always under the microscope. Like it or not, in this day and age of social media and 24/7 news coverage, everything a brand says is fair game for public record. Marketers, employees and those sitting in the C-suite should be very aware of this. In addition to strategic business mistakes by large companies, there have been several recent examples where brands have had an opinion for all the wrong reasons.
First, Chik-fil-A, the popular fast-food chicken company was tossed into the spotlight when it’s CEO made a public statement against gay marriage. It doesn’t matter whether gay marriage is right or wrong. That’s not the point. What is problematic is that Chik-fil-A should not be focused on a topic that has nothing to do with selling chicken sandwiches. The brand veered off message and it resulted in a firestorm. In a second example, David Siegel, founder of timeshare company, Westgate Resorts, said he would fire many employees if Obama gets re-elected. It doesn’t matter if his message is right or wrong.
The problem is that this should not have been one of his messages at all. Sure, there are tax and revenue implications involved in any potential change in the White House. Firing employees over political results should not be the focus of messaging for a timeshare company. Ever. In both cases, roughly half of these companies’ audiences may possibly rally around the statement. That also means roughly half the audiences will rally against both companies. Losing fifty percent of a possible audience is never a best practice. Brands need to realize that everything said is under a microscope. The key is to make sure leaders always stay on message and refrain from discussing non-business headlines, especially those that are opinion-based. History says this results in more harm than good, and there is usually a public apology at the end of the rainbow anyways. What is your brand message and are you communicating it effectively?