5 Tips for Better Brand Defense

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Friday, August 10, 2012

5 Tips for Better Brand DefenseEXCERPT: Brand defense is the action of defending one's brand from an attack. A brand attack is anything that directly threatens brand value thereby rupturing the trust that customers have in the brand. It's important to note that brand attacks can happen anywhere, at any time, and by anyone.

5 Tips for Better Brand Defense

Building a brand in today's world means more than simply spending money on mass media and advertising. Companies need to understand that building a brand now requires building a resilient brand - one that is well-defended and is properly prepared when a crisis strikes.

With social media connecting the world as it does, true and false information about a brand can travel fast. Even the strongest brands can be leveled in a flash. A company's ability to defend themselves and do so quickly is a key component in building a strong, quality, and long-lasting brand.

What is Brand Defense?

Brand defense is the action of defending one's brand from an attack. A brand attack is anything that directly threatens brand value thereby rupturing the trust that customers have in the brand. It's important to note that brand attacks can happen anywhere, at any time, and by anyone, including disgruntled customers, competing companies, and even employees. Brand attacks may include:

  • A disgruntled employee blogging about their grievances.
  • A third-party website posting a negative review of a product or service.
  • A company's executive team behaving poorly in public.
  • A change in product packaging which generates negative customer feedback.
  • An unethical competitor that spreads incorrect information about a company.

Why is Brand Defense Important?

Brands are the bedrock of a business. People trust in what they see, hear, and ultimately 'feel' about a brand, which results in purchase decisions and loyalty to return again. Additionally, when we choose a brand, it is as much about declaring who we are and what we value as it is about the product. We choose proudly and display those choices proudly.

The brands that we choose use the right ingredients, purchased from the right suppliers, and produced by the right employees, in the right manner. We trust that they deliver quality, but we also trust everything that they stand for. However, what happens if that trust is damaged?

The importance of brand trust means that any breach of our faith in a brand can be fatal to the relationship. If "our brand" behaves in a manner that suggests our trust is misplaced, we terminate that relationship quickly and decisively. Unrepaired breaches are particularly harmful as this traditionally leads to a loss in future business. Under these conditions, building a resilient brand and defending it against both intended and unwitting acts of attacks needs to be a company's number one priority.

5 Tips for Better Brand Defense

Since brand defense is a major component to building a strong, resilient brand, I'd like to introduce the following 5 tips for better brand defense. These strategies can be applied to your company's current branding initiatives, as well as your own personal branding efforts.

Manage Brands Defense Programmatically

Simply acknowledging that brand attacks exist is not a defensive strategy. Instead, companies need to manage brand defense programmatically, and with great focus on assessing brand risks and developing formal defensive strategies.

Assess Brand Risks
Assessing brand risks is the process of identifying threats or potential attacks that may face a brand. As my examples above clearly demonstrate, brand damage can be anything, big or small, and come from anywhere, including from within. While planning for the unknown is often difficult to do, forethought is a crucial when developing a resilient brand. It is important that companies hold routine brainstorming sessions to identify common brand risks, as well as those that are outrageously ridiculous.

Develop A Formal Brand Defensive Strategy
A brand defense strategy is a step-by-step guide for how to defend your company against a specific attack. It is important that every brand risk be given a unique and detailed plan of action. Within each strategy, companies should outline the tasks associated with defending the brand, as well as the names of those involved and their specific roles and responsibilities. The idea is to have everything ready to go when an attack occurs, so that a company can move effortlessly into defense mode.

Don't View Brand Defense as Just a Social Media Problem

Brand defense is not just about managing the adverse impact of social media. Yes, social media is likely to play a major role in a company's brand defense operations, but attackers are resilient and will come at a company from many different directions. Companies that concentrate all of their defenses on social media will ultimately be left unprepared to deal with a wide range of other brand attacks, such as those from other digital media, print media, and offline conversations. Diversity is important when playing brand defense.

Deploy Early Warning Systems to Monitor Brand Attacks

An early warning system is a method for detecting brand attacks immediately so that companies may respond quickly and limit the amount of damage caused by each attack. Notifications of an attack can come in many forms. The three most common are online monitoring software, direct customer complaints, and employee testimonials. Regardless of how a company is notified of an attack, all notifications should be taken seriously and dealt with immediately.

Furthermore, early warning systems will undoubtedly be unique to each company. However, I strongly encourage companies to enlist the efforts of both employees and customers in their early detection methods. Give them the tools and resources to report attacks, and I think you'll be pleasantly surprised by how effective they can be.

Assume That Tomorrow's Brand Attacks Will Be Different

Brand defense is a game best played by those companies capable of learning and adapting. As companies learn to defend against specific brand attacks, attackers will also adapt and launch entirely different brand attacks no doubt using newer, faster forms of readily available technology. The battle will proceed in this way forever. Therefore, it is important that your brand become resilient through continuous adaptation to the times and technology.

Don't Let Brand Defense Become Another Employee Chore

Brand defense is not another chore to be governed by your employees. Everyone within a company should be tasked with brand defense, and play a part in building and preserving brand value. Executives should lead the way by communicating brand challenges, goals, and defense strategies to employees, and encourage their participation.

Furthermore, I'd strongly encourage companies to dedicate an entire committee to the brand building process. These brand managers would be responsible for evaluating risks, developing defense strategies, defending against attacks, and embedding brand intelligence throughout the entire organization. "One brand, one team" is the mindset of resilient brand.

In Closing...

There is no denying that building a resilient brand will take time, money, and a lot of effort. However, doing so is absolutely important. If you make every effort to defend your brand and behave as if your reputation were money, you'll earn your customers' permission to build this most valuable of assets - your brand - long, long, into the future.


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  1. Every activity you do in terms of branding should be unique and brought out with unique ideas ...
    By Anonymous Stanley Rao on August 14, 2012
  2. I agree Stanley, but am unsure as to how that fits with this particular post.
    By Blogger Unknown on August 14, 2012
  3. How common do you think brand attacks are for smaller to medium businesses? Is it a feature of overly competitive niche marketing?

    Great article but I have a whole load of questions in my head stemming from it. Thanks.
    By Anonymous Nick on September 05, 2012
  4. I don't imagine that many outside brand attacks occur on smaller to medium sized businesses. Instead, I'd bet that most of their brand damage comes from within - rogue employees on social media, etc.

    If you have any other questions, please feel free to ask away.

    By Blogger Unknown on September 05, 2012
  5. I bought this book based on your recommendation. I just finished it and thought it was great. I will be adding some of these strategies inhouse. Thanks, Karl!
    By Anonymous Anonymous on October 05, 2012
  6. That's awesome!! I love books that help us to change the way we think or do things in-house. Best of luck, and thanks for coming back to share.
    By Blogger Unknown on October 05, 2012

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