Reputation is trust and the sound of distant drums is challenging how big brands play their role in the world raising fundamental questions about the morality of the offering (McDonald’s), the ingredients (Coca-Cola), the business model (Nestle’s palm oil) and product safety (Toyota).
In many cases the reason for the looming challenge is obvious when you contemplate tobacco, but many other brands spanning auto, financial services, oil, mining, gas, CPG, tech and telecom are being challenged by an ever growing number of pundits, thought-leaders, politicians and consumers: are you morally correct?
The typical response from most leading brands and marketing practitioners is to strenuously deny the complaint with corporate statements about their integrity, honesty, responsibility and ethical business practices. Claims and counter claims, evidence and counter evidence run riot and with the dexterity of gook brands claim it’s unfair criticism countering that there’s enough legislation in place and contend that they have a key role helping the environment, growing the economy and generating jobs.
Knowing and doing are totally different and many of these leading brands have a dysfunctional dynamic when it comes to transparency and camouflage the smell of their inauthenticity. Many brands claiming their societal role have woken
up on 3rd base thinking they hit a triple. To shatter the complacency it requires a concert of action to counter the public’s growing concern and cold contempt for many big brands: if you don’t like change you’ll enjoy irrelevance even less.
Brand is not about power it’s about responsibility. To orchestrate, motivate and facilitate a change in perception requires big brands to demonstrate not assert their morality claims. Brand leaders must ensure that strong rhetoric is not left to stand on its own, without a strategy to translate words into action because morality is something you do not wait for.