When brand guardians neglect their privilege

When brand guardians neglect their privilege

While our lives today are impacted by brands in their teenage years, the brand landscape from cars to tomato sauce is still dominated by icons that have served billions around the world for longer than we can remember.

These icon brands were created by visionaries, often the passion of a single man or woman. They have done their creators proud, delivered fortunes to shareholders and served generations of consumers with remarkable loyalty.

Yet, too often these days we see this legacy being destroyed by poor decision-making. Put simply, we experience, to our horror, the sad neglect by brand guardians the privilege bestowed on them to nurture and protect the reputation of the brand.

A most recent case of neglect would be the Volkswagen brand with loyal owners across several world markets staring at letters advising them of a mandatory recall. Something to do with the gearbox and a potential malfunction that can lead to your “car freewheeling”.

The letter opens with an insult to loyal VW owners. “Your satisfaction with our products is the highest priority for Volkswagen”. The truth is that this recall action came after months of stubborn denial by management in spite of widespread media accusations and expression of frustration and concern by Volkswagen drivers.

Arguably, the most admired advertising campaign in history was created for Volkswagen by Bill Bernbach, founder of the agency known today as DDB. Bill saw the Volkswagen Beetle for what it was: honest, simple, sensible, and reliable. To the agency he insisted: “The product. Stay with the product”.

If only Bill Bernbach was around to remind the current generation of VW guardians of their privilege and responsibility. They have truly failed the integrity of the product, then aggravated by the arrogance or ignorance of the people charged with protecting a brand regarded by owners as a member of the family rather than just a German passenger car.

How does this happen? How is it possible that management of the day and their army of advisors can get this so wrong? What were they thinking in putting at risk the value and reputation of a brand with possibly the most loyal band of supporters in history?

My guess is that for most of those so called brand guardians this is simply a job. They have either ignored or never been taught the privilege of being a guardian of the legacy created by Ferdinand Porsche 75 years ago and nurtured over decades by talent like Bill Bernbach.


More reading:

What is so special about your brand?
Brand loyalty: Are marketers facing a sad reality?
Are brands still judged by the company they keep?
Brand equity: Are CEOs neglecting a valuable asset?


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