Fujitsu Brand Adrift

Fujitsu stranded in a sea of negative brand association

Recently Fujitsu found itself in cold water when a hot air balloon was stranded in Port Philip Bay, in Australia’s southern city of Melbourne. The balloon, along with its ten passengers, originally landed on South Melbourne beach before being swept into the water. Consequently, the Fujitsu balloon has been the lead story in the nation’s TV bulletins, radio, twitter feeds and blogs in what could be a brand association nightmare for Fujitsu.

This isn’t the first time a multinational brand has found itself unintentionally the victim of negative brand association. Remember the photos of Australian crime matriarch Judy Moran being arrested with Dior sunglasses or the images of a less-than-glamorous Britney Spears with Starbucks coffees? Each brand had their reputations unwittingly tarnished as a result of these negative associations.

Brand association is a part of the everyday marketing landscape with brands investing huge amounts to ensure chosen celebrities endorses their products as they work to promote positive brand association. The benefits of having a brand associated with a positive influence or event (remember the Oakley Chilean miners example?), are evident, but what about when the events take your brand outside your control?

When Fujitsu originally sponsored the balloon, I’m sure they envisaged their logo floating above the city capturing the onlooker’s attention and imagination, not drifting out to sea, but nevertheless, they must now assess whether steps need to be taken to diminish any possible negative brand association.

I’m not of the belief that ‘any publicity is good publicity’ and can never understand why agencies advocate this to their clients.  That being said, there are some situations, today’s included, which can’t be avoided. Getting your brand onto the front page of the nation’s press is never easy.  The opportunity now for Fujitsu’s brand managers in Australia is to leverage this slightly soggy incident and respond with a positive brand message.  We will have to wait and see whether this recent event has a negative impact on Fujitsu’s image or if their brand team can seize the opportunity presented.

If you would like to discuss the implications of brand association (positive or negative) or simply want to talk about your own hot air ballooning experience why not give us a call.

Nikki Williams
Client Account Manager


    • I couldn’t agree more Tim, the Fujitsu brand managers could have turned this negative brand association into a real positive if they had jumped on board quicker. I’m sure the stranded passengers would have loved some free products!

  1. Negative brand association is an unfortunate cloud to have hanging over any brand. But what a great opportunity for these companies brand managers to spring into action and reverse the negative perception with clever brand gestures that will reverse the memory of its consumers.

  2. I must agree with you NIkki on the ‘any publicity is good publicity’, take for instance the famous Burberry check that became favoured by proffessional football hooligans in England with their check-pattern baseball caps which forced manufacturers to discontinue the range of caps and clear shelves after numerous pictures in the media showed louts wearing the £50 headwear being arrested. We should never underestimate the impact of negative brand association. Great blog

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