When Brand Association Goes Wrong

During the recent unrest in Iran, the Adidas brand got caught-up in the violence when this image was published all-around the globeWhen brands appear in mainstream media associated with an individual or an event, it can take the brand into new territory they’d never anticipated.
I’ve never agreed with the old adage; ‘there’s no such thing as bad publicity.’ All brand expressions have the potential to enhance or detract from a brand’s reputation. The higher the profile of the brand expression, the more powerful its ability to have a positive or negative impact.

When the mainstream media captures events, Crime matriarch; Judy Moran sports Dolce & Gabbana shades in the National press as she's arrested for being an accessory to the murder of her  brother-in-law Desmond Tuppence Moransometimes brands are unintentionally caught-up at the same time by association with the people involved in those events. Brand owners themselves have no control over either the situation or the association it creates with their valuable brands.

During the recent unrest in Iran, the Adidas brand got caught-up in the violence when this image was published all-around the globe. And recently, Melbourne crime matriarch; Judy Moran sported Dolce & Gabbana shades on the front pages of the national press as she was arrested for being an accessory to the murder of her brother-in-law Desmond Tuppence Moran

When brands become ‘iconic’, they begin to pervade our lives to such an extent that it’ only a matter of time until they appear in the mass-media in an association that’s not to their making. Whilst they are powerless to influence this manner of brand association, the way brand owners choose to manage negative associations is entirely within their control .

If you’d like to discuss how to manage positive brand associations for your business, drop us a line.



  1. John, that’s a ripper. Toyota suffering the dark side of being an international brand. Even as a brander I find it somehow comforting that life still holds the upper hand. How much do you think this sort of coverage impacts the public’s brand perceptions?

  2. Tim, yep, these new social media channels are feeding info fast, especially it seems when a brand is being hammered. If it’s amusing, then it even goes up another notch.
    Have you seen any examples like these?

  3. John, that pic of the Toyota is pretty full on! Re your question Dave, personally it doesn’t impact my perception of the brand at all but I’m sure there would certainly be people who would not be rushing out to purchase a Toyota.

  4. Dom, Brand perception can be a slippery thing – the more we think about it consciously, the more how we feel about it becomes clouded. When making these subconscious decisions about brand each day, it is more often our heart and how we feel that drives the outcome than our mind.

  5. Great point well made. I wrote about this issue here http://brandconsultantasia.wordpress.com/2009/10/28/negative-brand-association/

    One site that I read on a regular basis is http://news.bbc.co.uk/

    If I have time, I’ll watch the news reports and a lot of the time, controversial, violent, criminal etc stories are preceded by commercials for financial institutions selling, trust (that’s funny), integrity (I’m not making this up), value and so on. If they made any impact on me, and I seriously doubt it, that impact is definately diluted or eradicated by the stories that follow.

    But there is also a bigger issue at stake here and that is the concept of the global buy. I have one client who is about to spend US$20 million on such a unmeasurable, dated, one-size-fits-all mass economy tactic that has no place in any organisations brand building in the 21st century.

    It may reach many eyeballs and create awareness but for how long and so what.

  6. Marcus, Thanks, that blog of yours is well worth the read. It’s a good point you make about the brand association of the TV programming and even other ads when using that medium for advertising.
    Phew, I struggle to believe any client – these days more than ever – would invest even 10% of that budget without doing the due diligence on current thinking for global brand roll-out. One size fits all will reach many eyeballs, but at best it will not have relevance and at worst it has the potential to offend.

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