Branding and Reputation

The Brand Risk Spectrum

16 Oct 2018  

In my previous post, I introduced the observation that though Digital/Social Branding is fast becoming the dominant model, its financial implications for Brand Equity are neither well-known nor (as a result) well-managed.

I’m currently testing my hypothesis with a survey fielded by The Conference Board.  The survey will be open through Friday, December 7th, and I encourage you to contribute if you have experienced any of these problems.

I was introduced to Brand Equity Risk in the mid-2000s through work my firm conducted detecting counterfeit and diverted goods for major firms in the CPG and pharma industries.

Fast-forward a dozen or so years, and in hindsight it’s clear we were just getting started. Now BER has morphed into a range of variants, each with its own challenges.

What are the major categories of Brand Equity Risk?

In analyzing data on adverse brand events provided by my associate Patrick Marrinan’s firm MSA, I developed this taxonomy of BER categories as they exist today:BRAND_RISK_Spectrum

  • COUNTERFEITS RISK – “Knock-off or counterfeit versions of our branded products are sold as ‘genuine’ on the Internet.”
  • BRAND SAFETY RISK – “Our digital advertising is displayed adjacent to content we do not endorse and find objectionable (e.g., pornography, political extremism, etc.)”
  • PUBLIC ISSUES RISK – “Our products/brand are perceived by current or potential customers as being on the ‘wrong side’ of one (or more) polarizing public issues (e.g., gun control, immigration, LGBTQ, etc.”
  • DISINFORMATION RISK – “A brand disinformation web site and/or social media campaign has been launched against us (e.g., phony or hostile site, hashtag attack, etc.)”
  • ACTIVISM RISK – “Activists have used social media to badmouth and/or organize boycotts of our brand.”
  • KEY PERSONNEL RISK – “Behavior of highly-visible key personnel has been found illegal, unethical, or socially unacceptable, resulting in adverse publicity.”
  • OTHER PERSONNEL RISK – “Behavior of other personnel has been found illegal, unethical, or socially unacceptable, resulting in adverse publicity.”
  • EXECUTION RISK – “Branding execution (e.g., visual iconography, messaging tone, etc.) has been inappropriate, resulting in consumer pushback and/or adverse publicity.”

Have you experienced any of these?  Are you worried that you will?

Probability and impact

How large is the potential impact of each BER category? What is its likelihood of occurring? How are organizations dealing with these threats? These are among the questions our research explores.

What’s in store?

This BER typology is not intended as a prediction that new variants won’t appear in the future — as they almost certainly will. We have already seen information warfare rapidly morph from a set of techniques used to supplement conventional warfare to a set of techniques used in political campaigns. These techniques have already started to metastasizing into commercial sectors — and it is here they are likely to find their largest payout.

What can you do?

Brand Equity Risk has typically been managed episodically and after the fact — with crisis management and other mop-up operations. We have found that it’s much more effectively managed systematically and preemptively. We are using the term BRAND STEWARDSHIP to indicate a set of policies, procedures, and practices in place and in force at the enterprise level to build, sustain, and defend the integrity and value of an organization’s brand(s) and reputation.

But it all starts with a candid self-assessment of current and potential Brand Equity Risk — as provided in our survey.


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