Shame is a brand killer

When your public sees you choosing a path that's shameful, that they don't approve of, that offends their sensibilities, it creates a dissonance that might never be erased.

Brands work not because they have clever logos or taglines, not because they run a lot of ads, but because something about their story and their promise resonates with deeply held cultural beliefs. "People like us do things like this/buy things like this/like things like this," is the mark of a brand (a comedian, a clothing line, a store) that has become part of the zeitgeist, at least for a portion of the population. Most of all, it's, "people like us treat others like this."

When the brand stops resonating and starts undermining the way their audience thinks of themselves, it feels wrong, uncomfortable. When it crosses the line to behavior seen as shameful, the brand fades. Perhaps forever.

Organizations ought to do the right thing because it's the right thing to do. Failing that, they ought to do the right thing because their public doesn't belong to them, they belong to their public, and when they fail to understand that, value disappears.

[Shame between individuals is corrosive, an ongoing toll on many relationships. We don't like to talk about shame because the very idea of it is so overwhelming. But shame in the public sphere is fuel for the media, and it's a significant contributor to maintaining or changing the cultural status quo. It's also become an ever increasing part of political discourse, and as a result, virtually all political brands are permanently tarnished.]

       
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