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Open access

Chip Walker

Abstract

In today’s world, knowing more about a brand can make people think worse of it. Rather than helping a brand, increased familiarity can actually add risk. This is a phenomenon referred to as “negative knowledge.” It happens when the more consumers know about a brand, the less they like it. Possible reasons can be that consumers feel embarrassed by the brand, that they have bad brand experiences or learn about them in the media or from friends, or that they dislike a company’s business motives.

Once consumers know something about a brand, it is hard for them to “un-know” it. During a time of media fragmentation when all managers are struggling to gain more fame for their brands, it’s critical to realize that brand knowledge comes with a potential dark side. While it’s always wise to avoid brand obscurity, marketers must be ever cognizant that what customers know about a brand really can do more harm than good.

Open access

Marc Fischer, Hyun Shin and Dominique M. Hanssens

Abstract

If company revenues fluctuate, the resulting volatility makes it more difficult to project the company’s future revenues and earnings and ensure steady cash-flow. This lessens investor confidence and, as such, can harm the financial health of a brand. So, effective marketing can have undesired financial side effects.

The optimal marketing behaviors derived with and without volatility calculations will be quite different. Analytically savvy companies will be able to gain competitive advantage from this realization.

Open access

Susan Fournier and Giana Eckhardt

Abstract

The physical and social realities, mental biases and limitations of being human differentiate human brands from others. It is their very humanness that introduces risk while generating the ability for enhanced returns. Four particular human characteristics can create imbalance or inconsistency between the person and the brand: mortality, hubris, unpredictability and social embeddedness. None of these qualities manifest in traditional non-human brands, and all of them present risks requiring active managerial attention. Rather than treating humans as brands and making humans into brands for sale in the commercial marketplace, our framework forces a focus on keeping a balance between the person and the personified object.

Open access

Pierre Berthon, Emily Treen and Leyland Pitt

Abstract

Brands can interact both directly and indirectly with fake news. In some instances, brands are the victims of fake news and, other times, the purveyors. Brands can either finance fake news or be the targets of it. Indirectly, they can be linked via image transfer, where either fake news contaminates brands, or brands validate fake news.

To control the risk of negative image transfer, the authors propose technical actions to address false news and systemic steps to rethink the management of brands in order to inoculate against various forms of “fakery” and to reestablish stakeholder trust. Systemic solutions involve a rethinking of brands and branding. Too often, brands have become uncoupled from the reality of the offerings they adorn. But brands are not ends in themselves, they are the result of outstanding offerings. They can act as interpretive frames, but they don’t unilaterally create reality, as many seem to believe. Brands should not be seen and managed as objects but as perceptual processes.

Open access

Alokparna Basu Monga and Liwu Hsu

Abstract

Understanding consumers’ ways of thinking can help identify strategies to limit brand damage and elicit more favorable reactions from disapproving consumers. Analytic thinkers’ beliefs about a brand are diluted when they see negative information; those of holistic thinkers remain unaffected. While both analytic and holistic thinkers blame the brand equally for quality and manufacturing problems, holistic thinkers are more likely to blame contextual factors outside of the brand than analytic thinkers. This ability of holistic thinkers to focus on the outside context is the reason why their brand beliefs are not diluted.

State-of-the-art crisis management should be proactive vis-à-vis potentially negative events. Crisis communications that highlight contextual factors as triggers of negative incidents offer a powerful mechanism to restrict brand damage. Additionally, elaborational messages that clarify the nature of the brand extension can curb negative thoughts from analytic consumers and boost their responses.

Open access

The Frontlines of Brand Risk

GfK MIR Interview with Patrick Marrinan, Managing Principal of Marketing Scenario Analytica, New York City, USA

Susan Fournier and Shuba Srinivasan

Abstract

Whether it be the NFL, Dove, Wells Fargo, VW or countless others–managers need only open a daily newspaper to see how things can go terribly wrong for brands. Decline can be fast and the landing hard. In a contemporary marketplace where ideologies reign and social media guarantees the spread of (mis)information at light speed, a lot of what we think we know about brand marketing needs to be rethought through a risk-management lens. “For me, brand risk is any event, action or condition with the potential to damage a brand’s value, thereby making revenue generation and a company’s market value less than it should or could have been,” Patrick Marrinan, Managing Principal of Marketing Scenario Analytica, states. In his talk with Susan Fournier and Shuba Srinivasan, Patrick illustrates the many facets of a risk that has only begun to be recognized as a serious threat to carefully cultivated brand assets. Here we share what to watch out for and what brands can do to protect against risk.

Open access

Susan Fournier and Shuba Srinivasan

Open access

Charlotte Mason and Kaushik Jayaram

Abstract

To minimize the potential loss of market share and profits, it is important to understand factors that drive cannibalization. Key brand variables for cannibalization risk concern how the new product compares in price and quality to existing products. Other relevant variables are the category, the type of product and a company’s distribution system. Also, whether a new product will coexist with or replace the existing product needs to be considered.

Estimating cannibalization risk should assess possible effects on company operations.

The positioning of new products needs to be planned and communicated carefully. Too many similar options may confuse the consumer. Brand and category factors as well as the consumption context can help managers mitigate the extent of cannibalization. Profit impact is more relevant than changes in sales figures. A lower-margin product cannibalizing a higher-margin product eats away at profits, but a higher-margin product cannibalizing a lower-margin one is potentially worth the cannibalization risk.

Open access

Susan Fournier and Shuba Srinivasan

Abstract

In an increasingly risky socioeconomic environment, management needs to proactively consider brand-related risks. To understand brands as tools for risk management, they need to understand four types of brand risk: brand reputation risk, brand dilution risk, brand cannibalization risk and brand stretch risk.

Risk management is not a natural act for brand managers trained in astute execution of the 4 Ps, and contemporary market factors make this more challenging still. With an increasingly polarized society, it is almost impossible for brands to remain untouched by ideologies. In addition, the growth in digital advertising gives brand managers less control over advertising placement and context, and the mandate to keep growing adds executional risk.

The more exposed a brand is to brand risk, the more attention this topic will need in the boardroom. To shift a company’s marketing philosophy toward risk, it is important to define marketing competences in a broader way, to be self-critical and to be proactive.

Open access

Oliver Hupp, David Robbins and Susan Fournier

Abstract

Like a stock portfolio, each relationship type offers a brand higher or lower growth opportunities and risks. The type of relationship is particularly relevant in brand crisis events. When a brand is hit by a crisis, it is not necessarily the most successful strategy to focus exclusively on protecting positive emotional relationships. At-risk relationships are affected more than others and can lead to a significant decline of brand value.

Our cases highlight that at-risk relationships represent a critical, but often overlooked, aspect of a brand’s relationship portfolio. Risks range from negative word of mouth that might have a negative impact on potential new customers to clear retention risk. Marketers should manage these risks proactively by identifying and investigating the nature of their customer relationships and by responding frankly and credibly to crisis events.