Brands that deliver consistently and are customer focused may survive a crisis

Brands seem to stagger from disaster to crisis, from last year’s collapse of the Rana Plaza textile factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh and the discovery of horsemeat in various food products to this year’s shooting-down of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 and the massive data hacks of eBay and Sony.

Branwell Johnson

The definition of a brand crisis is variable and those that immediately grab the headlines are, inevitably and tragically, those that involve loss of life. But a crisis can be precipitated by any number of unforeseen factors and is often self-inflicted. Our main article this week looks at the various ways in which brands can try to future-proof against the negative effects of unforeseen upheavals.

The PR guidelines for an immediate response to a crisis are well known, especially the importance of the so-called golden hour – the time when a company can formulate and implement a proactive                                    communications plan.

But of equal, if not more, importance is a long-term strategy for maintaining positive brand sentiment and integrity. It is amazing how brands that you might think would be torpedoed by negative PR arising from some form of crisis, have not only survived but flourished. Amazon is a good example; questions have been raised previously about tax avoidance and employee working conditions but the brand sails on. 

And Amazon is in the middle of another potentially brand-damaging moment, halting pre-orders and stalling deliveries in disputes with publisher Hachette and Disney over terms and conditions. 

The more interesting row is with Hachette where each side is enlisting customer support, with Amazon sending personal emails to Kindle readers saying: “We will never give up our fight for reasonable e-book prices. We know making books more affordable is good for book culture. We’d like your help. Please email Hachette and copy us.” Meanwhile, high-profile authors, including Stephen King and Donna Tartt, have placed an anti-Amazon, two-page ad in the New York Times.

But are both sides employing the wrong kind of customer focus? Do customers care about the background to wrangles or do they just want an efficient, smooth service at a price they are prepared to pay? Does fairness have any resonance with consumers?

Undoubtedly Amazon will survive this upheaval too thanks to consistently good service and its positioning as a consumer champion – good foundations to help weather any storm.