How to Blemish Your Well Established and/or Prestigious Brand and How to Prevent It


By James D. Roumeliotis 

A business invests time, resources and money building a brand over the years. Its image and reputation are sensitive matters which should be kept top of mind as they form perceptions on the mind of the consumer. This in turn drives revenues and noteworthy profits. Thus, it goes without saying that a brand is core to a company’s success. Moreover, the leadership behind it should be making methodical decisions to retain the brand’s reputation through diligent decisions and actions. Surprisingly, this is not always the case with some brands ─ primarily the people behind it, the brand custodians, along with their organizational culture.

So, What Gives?

The main reasons why a company may be neglecting its brand image includes:

  • Bad products or service;
  • Below average post sale service;
  • Not delivering on promises or lying and over-hyping the features & benefits offered;
  • Mixing and associating politics, race, religion, sensitive causes, and rogue individuals;
  • Overexposure including not carefully vetting the licensees;
  • Not delivering on a positive and effortless total customer experience;
  • Lack of employee training, empowerment, motivation and not everyone being on the same page or common goal with customer centricity throughout the organization;
  • Paying little attention to the noise and discussions made about the company/brand over social media.

Classic Cases of Greed, Over-exposure, and Negligence

Pierre Cardin: When the late 98-year-old fashion designer with the eponymous name passed-away, he left behind a legacy mixed with unique creativity, yet his name was overexposed on hundreds of products, from accessories to home goods. From an icon to a blemished brand whose prestige waned to oblivion. For over seven decades, he designed unique and unconventional clothes which pushed the boundaries of the acceptable. For example, he introduced his “bubble dress,” a short-skirted, bubble-shaped dress made by bias-cutting over a stiffened base. He would experiment with synthetic materials such as vinyl, and Plexiglas among other avant-garde textiles. He also introduced unisex fashion which were indistinguishable between man and woman.

Later, Pierre Cardin developed licensing agreements with several industries which put his brand name on a vast number of consumer goods, including cosmetics, pens, even cigarettes. He once amused that, if given the opportunity, he may even put his name on a roll of toilet paper. As a result of his practice, he eventually cheapened his brand despite the wealth it afforded him. The overall effect of making Pierre Cardin appear on a variety of items was solely to make habitually non-fashionable products appear high-end.

By the mid 1990’s with about 904 licenses globally, his licensing overexposure led to the devaluation of the brand. In 2011, he attempted to sell his business. Despite discussions with several potential investors, he did not succeed in that endeavor.

So why did Pierre Cardin chase money to the detriment of his brand? He answered this question while defending his strategy by stating: “I don’t want to end up like Balenciaga and die without a nickel — then, 20 years after I’m dead, see others make a fortune from my name.

The moral of the story is that a fashion icon brand which wanted to exploit its reputation and expand beyond its in-house offerings, required a strategy of licensing with a selective and discerning manner.  

Donald J. Trump and the family owned Trump Organization: The former US President and once renowned NYC Real Estate developer went from a hyped-up and aspiring luxury lifestyle brand to one presently looked-upon with disdain. He spent four years treating politics, diplomacy, the climate, and the well-being of his people as trivial matters, and in the process, alienated more than half-the country’s voters. The final nail in the coffin was the backlash from the Capital riot that he incited on January 6th, 2021. Timothy O’Brien, Bloomberg opinion columnist and the author of Trump Nation, on MSNBC News declared: “Trump’s brand is associated with violence, insurrection and hatred.” The headline in an Ad Week January 8, 2020 article, states: “Exclusive: Trump’s Name, Once a Brand, Is Now a Banner of Extremism.”

According to several people close to him, winning the Presidency to the WH in 2016 came unexpectedly to Donald J. Trump. He wasn’t quite up to the task for the job, other than the prestige and power bestowed upon him. While moonlighting as President of the US, Trump spent four years destroying two brands: his own and his Republican party’s. Consequently, banks, business partners, his lawyers, and political allies have distanced themselves from the former president. Much of his licensing business, which grew somewhat following the popularity of The Apprentice TV show, has reached a low point since he became president. 

Outright Reject Creating Scams and Malfeasance

Moreover, as anyone who maintains an element of morals and ethics in the business world will acknowledge, scams and malfeasance are not a good brand-building strategy. Consider the extinct Trump University: an online education scam, the Trump Foundation: a scam-packed philanthropy, and Trump Network: a multi-level marketing and devious organization.

What Can You Do to Preserve Your Brand Reputation?

  • Have a viable plan in place to build and preserve your reputation: It is not a onetime event, or a serious of occasional events but rather an ongoing process. Constantly monitor your brand. Be proactive vs. reactive to prevent issues from turning into a crisis.
  • Develop an online strategy to spot increases in negative conversation before they reach bloggers and online media.
  • Use social media to clarify customer misunderstandings, reducing overall complaints and building brand fans simultaneously.
  • Keep an open-door policy and encourage dialogue with your employees to obtain any adverse issues before they get exacerbated.
  • Apologize to customer complaints in a timely manner. 
  • Be transparent when handling client issues and avoid using pretexts.
  • Use testimonials as these can help boost any image problems.
  • Reward loyal customers and supporters by making them feel appreciated.
  • Do not associate your brand with any rogue partners. Choose the charities, sponsorships and cause marketing affiliations carefully.

Finally, avoid being entangled with religion, politics or any other sensitive subject and institutions.

Complacency and insensitivity in your business should, by all means, be avoided let alone developing and retaining a stellar brand reputation.

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Filed under 1, brand equity, brand image, brand management, brand refresh, Branding, Business, inept management, leadership, lifestyle branding

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