Announcing the First Brands Behaving Badly Awards

July 7, 2010 by Matthew Schwartz

At the halfway mark, 2010 has been quite a year for brands behaving badly. Maybe it's always this way and I just haven't noticed before, but for a 6-month stretch, it certainly seems like some of the most recognized names in the world are hell-bent on trashing the most valuable asset they have, their reputation. With such a glut of significant brand flameouts, we've decided it's time for a special way to honor the world's most high profile destroyers of brand equity. Introducing, the MSDS Brands Behaving Badly Awards.

Why a Brands Behaving Badly Awards? Well, because it's always best to learn from the mistakes of others, that's why! 

When brands go bad, it almost always is because leadership chooses to make grabs for short-term gains at the price of long term pain. It's like shooting dope. feels good and makes sense right now, but deep down, you know it's not a great idea. The symptoms? Cost-cutting that erodes a hard-earned reputations for quality, off-brand line extensions into new "hot" markets that damage what a brand originally stood for (Porche Cayenne anyone?), and downright cynical talking out of two sides of the mouth—one to the public and one to insiders or shareholders, that is ultimately exposed

The best companies work hard to create brands that are aligned with a long-term, sustainable business strategy. They know their market. They understand and value their audience. And most importantly, they've learned what matters most to become and continue being an indispensable part of their audience's lives. Businesses put a lot of honest time, money and effort into creating a roadmap for the future that aligns their passion and ideals with creating lasting value for their audience. When companies get it right, the results are magical. They also happen to drive margins and profits higher and create a strong defensive wall around their business. 

So why do organizations treat their brands so carelessly? Often leaders don't pay enough attention to aligning their business culture and their actions at every level with what it is their brand really stands for. Brand implosions are never one time flare-ups, no matter how spectacular the swan dive. They are never the result of one rogue operative who screws up. What they are is a reflection of an organization that has lost its way—one that's forgotten who they are, what they stand for, and most importantly, why they matter. And boy has the price some of the most well-known, respected brands paid for their missteps this year been staggering. 

So to give a stage to those brands who have gone astray, semi-annually, we'll hold the seasonal Brands Behaving Badly Awards to focus on the 3 most worthy candidates for Brand Behaving Badly gold.

About Matthew Schwartz

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