When it Comes to Branding, Be Careful Who You Associate With [Interview]

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In recent weeks, a couple of big name brands in the US lost billions of dollars in market value when they were subject to boycotts by angry consumers.

For Target, it was about what many consumers saw as inappropriate merchandise for sale targeting children. For Bud Light, it was the use of a transgender influencer as a spokesperson for the brand.

“Brands that want to go down this path, that want to infuse purpose into their branding and marketing, should do so very thoughtfully and with a clear understanding of how the market might react,” said Neil Brigden, Assistant Professor of Marketing at Mount Royal University in Calgary.

Neil Brigden

“This is particularly challenging for those mass brands like Bud Light, like Target, that aim to appeal to many different consumer groups. And in that situation it can be almost impossible to adopt purpose without offending some customers.

“One way in which brands try to manage this is by tailoring specific messages to cater to different segments, different audiences. But what they’re coming up against is this outrage machine of political commentators who thrive on controversy, who will look for things to take offence at, and they will highlight and amplify anything that they deem controversial. And because of that, an action that the brand might have seen as a very small part of their marketing strategy, like one Instagram post, like a limited time line of clothing, can potentially get a lot of negative attention from an audience that it was never intended for.”

In this video interview, Brigden discusses lessons that businesses and marketers can learn from the experiences of brands Target and Bud Light who lost billions of dollars in market value when they were boycotted by consumers.

Brigden talks about what companies should do when a crisis hits, what are the key things to consider when it associates with someone like an athlete, actor or personality, how to create a brand and develop a strategy for it, and the growing use of influencers by brands.

The Video Interview Series by Retail Insider is available on YouTube.

Connect with Mario Toneguzzi, a veteran of the media industry for more than 40 years and named in 2021 a Top Ten Business Journalist in the world and the only Canadian – to learn how you can tell your story, share your message and amplify it to a wide audience. He is Senior News Editor with Retail Insider and owner of Mario Toneguzzi Communications Inc. and can be reached at mdtoneguzzi@gmail.com.

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Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary, has more than 40 years experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist, and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, faith, city and breaking news, and business. He is the Senior News Editor with Retail Insider in addition to working as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training. Mario was named as a RETHINK Retail Top Retail Expert in 2024.

3 COMMENTS

  1. Interesting headline … could you have used other examples rather than just 2SLGTBQIA+ ones? Goya? Nike and Colin Kaepernick? Right now it kind of reads that companies should “be careful” before they “associate” with the queer and trans communities. Not a great look ever but especially egregious during pride month. I have taken umbrage to other articles written by this individual but this one really made we want to speak up. Not really well thought out at all.

    • I agree there, some broader examples should have been used. And rest assured Retail Insider is not ‘homophobic’, being that I myself (founder/Publisher) am part of the community.

      A few years ago someone accused us of being a ‘conservative’ publication which is certainly not true given who’s on staff here.

      • I’m really glad to see you address this concern- I’ve had a couple days to reflect on the headline and the examples, and it just hasn’t sat well with me at all. I’m hoping future articles are a little more precise with their intent, or at least, aware of the subtext.

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