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


Share post:

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.

Interviewed this episode:

Like, Share and Subscribe to Mario Toneguzzi on YouTube!

Follow Mario:

Also check out the other series offered by Retail Insider, including The Weekly podcast and The Interview Series, which are both available on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, TuneIn, Google Podcasts, or through our dedicated RSS feed for Simplecast and other podcast players.

Follow Retail Insider:

Share your thoughts!

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.


  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.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

More From The Author



Subscribe to the Newsletter


* indicates required

Related articles

Modern Golf Opening Innovative Golf Social Experience in Downtown Toronto’s First Canadian Place [Interview]

The 8,500-square-foot Financial District space will feature multiple bays, bars, lounge areas, and partnerships with Food Dudes for food and beverage offerings, marking a significant shift in the company's growth strategy.

Wendy’s Bold Dynamic Pricing Move Has its Positives and Negatives [Op-Ed]

Sylvain Charlebois discusses the unusual move by Wendy's in the US to implement dynamic pricing, and how it could benefit the business while potentially turning off consumers.

Krispy Kreme Doughnuts Gears Up for Nationwide Expansion in Canada with Innovative Store Formats [Interview]

New locations in new markets are planned, including a mix of Doughnut Café concepts and manufacturing locations for the public called 'Theatre Hubs'.

Robson Street in Vancouver in Flux as New Retailers Prepare to Open Stores [Feature]

The street is seeing new retailers prepare to open, including a prominent corner that is about to see some very big changes and a potential luxury mall nearby cancelled.

Growing Crisis in Retail Inventory in Canada as Factory Direct Liquidates Stores [Interview]

The founder of A.D. Hennick & Associates says he's seeing overwhelming demand to liquidate inventory, indicating a concerning trend in the industry as more retailers look to insolvency.

Here’s What We Can Learn from Canada’s Response to Inflation in the 1980s and 1990s [Op-Ed]

Younger, poorer households have disproportionately suffered because their price index is skewed more toward food and shelter, say the authors.

Food Preferences in Canada Changing as Millennial and Gen Z Demographics Shift [Op-Ed]

Sylvain Charlebois discusses Canada's aging population and how younger consumers are shifting the grocery food landscape.

Henry Singer Unveils Downtown Edmonton Flagship Store at the ICE District, Featuring a Bar, Barber and Shoe Shine [Photos/Interview]

Jordan Singer discusses how the upscale menswear retailer recently relocated its Edmonton flagship store from Manulife Place into a 10,000 square foot space at the base of Western Canada's tallest building.

Canadian Retail Sales Dip: Year-End Drop in Discretionary Spending [J.C. Williams Group Analysis]

2023 Canadian retail sales ended in a lacklustre way, with controlled consumer spending amid a tumultuous year.

Landlord QuadReal Launches Pickleball Courts in Commercial Properties to Create Consumer Experience [Interview/Photos]

The initiative helps revitalize and re-imagine spaces using sustainable development practices, while incorporating the latest technology to enhance the visitor experience, blending physical and digital elements.

Canadian Consumers Willing to Switch Grocery Stores while Seeking Bargains: Study [Op-Ed]

Sylvain Charlebois says that a new survey offers a rigorous look into the preferences and behaviours shaping the future of grocery shopping in Canada.

Iconic Flo’s Diner in Toronto’s Yorkville Forced to Close After 33 Years Amid Landlord Dispute 

Retail Insider interviewed Flo’s co-owner who discusses the “heart wrenching” situation where he is being forced to close his business that began on Bellair Street in 1991.