The importance of brand reputation has been soundly underlined by events of the past 12 months, as companies scrambled to deal with threats from fake conspiracies, inappropriate ad positioning, fraud and unwanted associations.
The ability to react with increased agility, particularly within a digital landscape, has become critical. Fred Perry was widely applauded for its swift response when US far-right group the Proud Boys adopted the brand’s black-and-yellow polo shirts.
A statement issued in September, in the run-up to the US presidential election, expressed Fred Perry’s distaste and frustration, stressing the label’s prominent role as a symbol of inclusivity in various youth cultures from the 1960s onwards.
However, not all damaging situations can be addressed quite so speedily. In the telecoms industry, baseless conspiracy theories connecting 5G technology with the spread of Covid-19 have had damaging real world consequences.
In April, a mobile phone mast serving Birmingham’s Nightingale hospital was burnt down by arsonists linking 5G with the pandemic. That same month, BT-owned Openreach reported there had been nearly 50 reported attacks on telecoms engineers.
“It is a very real concern and it’s important to reiterate that theories that link Covid and 5G are simply false,” says Gareth Elliott, head of policy and communications at trade body Mobile UK. “Biological matter cannot be transmitted over radio waves.”