Breaking Bad Brand Image

Mitchell Wagner – Art Director – IRONCLAD Marketing

Mitchell Wagner

A negative brand image is a hard thing to overcome. The opinion we have of a brand can be buried so deep within our subconscious we’re not even aware the impression exists. The truth is everything in life has a “brand” from the obvious products we buy to people and even pets.

Take this real world example. My neighbors have a 3-year-old German Shepherd — the sweetest, most obedient dog I have ever met. My two-year-old son absolutely loves her and wants to go see her whenever she is outside. Even though I have firsthand experience of her gentle demeanor, I’m still on edge every time my son approaches her.

Let me clarify, I have never been attacked by a dog and have never had a negative experience with a German Shepherd. So why do I get tense? The answer is simple: Branding. German Shepherds have been given a bad, sometimes undeserved reputation as an aggressive breed. The brand characteristics are perpetuated not by the owners, but rather mostly by the media. You will never hear a breaking news story about a German Shepherd — or any dog for that matter — sitting nicely, playing with neighborhood kids or taking a nap. The image we see is that of an aggressive animal. That becomes the breed’s “brand” in the mind of the public — or at least this careful parent.

Can this type of negative branding be reversed? Certainly. Will it? Not without some conscious effort. But honestly, I don’t think the German Shepherds themselves spend much time fretting over it. They are probably blissfully unaware of my aggressive impression, and content playing fetch, rolling around in the grass and chasing their tails.

As marketers we are sometimes faced with trying to fix a negative brand. This can be a challenging, time-intensive process, especially when it is passed down through generations or buried within the subconscious.

Can you think of some examples of companies in recent history that have left a less than stellar brand image? Who were they? Can they fix that reputation? How?