Branding in the Face of Tragedy


On Thursday July 23, a terrible tragedy befell our community when a lone gunman indiscriminately opened fire on a theater of moviegoers, killing two and injuring several. This horrific event has left our region reeling and has created a devastated, mournful climate across the state of Louisiana. But as proud, lifelong members of Acadiana, we’re so proud of our neighbors for demonstrating extraordinary compassion, bravery, and love for one another in the time of immeasurable sorrow. On behalf of our entire team, we would like to offer our sincerest condolences to the victims and their families. Our prayers are with you.

In the hours following the event, we collectively found ourselves glued to screens — awaiting answers and exchanging sentiments of grief. It was here [on TV and social media]  that we witnessed in real time as genuine, gut reactions poured out from individuals and businesses struggling to cope with the catastrophic event. As professional brand managers, we found it impossible not to notice the way different people publicly responded to the tragic loss of innocent victims. Some of these reactions were honorable and heartfelt and others were disappointing missteps — the kind that make you shake your head and wish they hadn’t said anything at all.

There’s no one way to publicly react to tragedy in a setting like social media, but there are more than a million ways for a brand to irreversibly mar its reputation with careless posting and inappropriate management. So what can we learn from the cringe-inducing, thoughtless reactions?

Never Make It About You
If you are a business, and you feel the need to publicly respond to a national crisis, do not put yourself in the message. This isn’t about you. This is about victims and families. There’s no reason to brand the content you share with your logo, and there’s no reason to spin the tragedy to frame you within it. It’s in very poor taste to inject your business into a tragedy to gain exposure.

Never Pander
Speaking of which, always keep your intentions indisputable. In this particular instance, we saw a blatant effort of certain politicians to further campaigns with their disingenuous presence at the scene of the crime in the immediate moments following the incident. This might sound biting, but that’s exactly how it appeared to a lot of locals. Many of us believed that local law-enforcement and community public officials should have represented us in the time of tragedy. But what was meant to appear like the concerned gesture by politicians certainly came off as pandering for votes. Here, the lesson learned is to not use media attention during a national tragedy for personal gain. It could not be more repellent.

Never Engage In A Firefight
Anything that attracts major media attention is bound to attract opposing opinions from every direction.  There will always be individuals who find a way to negatively localize a tragedy and there will always be dissenters with something nasty to say. But as a business, stay out of arguments and discussions that could invite hate-speech or angry dissenting opinions from lunatics. Rise above the anger and let the crazy people argue among themselves.

Post From The Heart
If your social media pages are using pre-written, scheduled posts, be sure to disable posting during times that require real attention. You always want to have current messaging and auto-posting will give the public the impression that you’re disengaged from what’s happening on the news. Offer your condolences, do something to help, and make sure your audience knows that you really care.

In the end, it all comes down to messaging. It all comes down to having a genuine, heartfelt, sincere message and sharing it with the people who look to you for support. As a brand, you have the opportunity to engage with your audience on an emotional level at all times. But in a moment of uncertainty and loss, you have the opportunity to really say something that sticks with people and inspires hope.

We hope we never have to write anything like this ever again.

6 Branding Tips for Wayward Brands

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You’ve made some branding mistakes. But we’ve got 6 quick tips to fix them.

As your company’s Brand Managers, we take immense pride in helping your community and the public find value in what you do and who you are. It’s our job to communicate on behalf of and advocate for your brand — inspiring others to join us in our advocacy for you. And since we’re so invested in your success, we would like to take this opportunity to straighten out a few things with our 6 Branding Tips for Wayward Brands.

Consider this a little housekeeping rant. We’ll try not to raise our voices or shake our heads and collective, mild disappointment. This isn’t your fault. You didn’t know any better.

1. Respect your logo.

There is nothing more hurtful or offensive to a graphic designer than seeing the logo he/she labored over abused. And more often than not, the abuse doesn’t come from outsiders. It comes from within the company. Stretching out the mark, using the wrong colors, or simply pairing the icon with the wrong font are all grave mistakes that a lot of businesses make. And chances are, you’ve got your brand identity all over everything from signage to countless pieces of your paper system. But there’s got to be strict standards for how you use and deploy your identity. With every identity we create, we deliver a graphic standards manual to show you exactly how to use your logo. But it’s up to you to stick to the standards. And for God’s sake, use the right format in the right medium! Yeesh.

2. Get the name right.

It is astonishing how many businesses we encounter that are virtually unknown in their own communities because the public doesn’t know their name, or knows them by the wrong name. Unless you’ve made the branding decision to embrace a nickname or a shortened version of your primary moniker, always use your actual name. You have no idea how confusing it can be to refer to one company by several different names within the same community. The use of various identifiers is most often seen on the web, where brands sometimes use weird abbreviations or variations on the proper name over several different social media platforms. If you want the public to know who you are, you have to maintain a solitary name that they can keep top-of-mind. And don’t be afraid to correct people when they get it wrong. It’s not rude. It’s your name!

3. Play nice with others.

Look, every business faces competition. And none of us like the competition. But when it comes to coordinating public relations on behalf of your brand, you’ve got to play nice and you’ve got to teach your staff to do the same. More often than not, when we take on a new client, we quickly find internal issues of vocalizing resentment about the competition. When this happens, we get everyone together and facilitate some message training. It’s all about teaching your people to say the right things online and in public. And that doesn’t just apply to reigning in all the bad-mouthing. It’s constructive for basic messaging dissemination.

4. Be better than average.

When someone asks you, “What’s so great about your company?” You can’t just say: the staff, the service, or the technology. Because guess what? Every company is saying the exact same thing. In fact, every business, regardless of industry, thinks they offer the best service, quality products, and something that makes them appear cutting edge [like technology]. Your brand has to be more emotional than that. Dig a little deeper and find out what attracted your most beloved customers and staff to you in the first place. Pull out the nuanced, special elements that differentiate you from other businesses.

5. Your employees are key.

Wouldn’t it be nice if your business had a bunch of intelligent, caring, invested employees to say nice things on behalf of you? Oh wait. You already have those. The people you staff are essential to attracting community buy-in. Their loyalty can become an ownable part of the overall brand. And from a business perspective, it makes sense to market their loyalty as part of the brand’s image. Encouraging your employees to embrace the brand in public and on social media is a no-brainer for deputizing trustworthy brand advocates.

6. When in doubt, consult your Brand Managers.

I’m sure you’ve got some questions and I’m sure I’ve only slightly hit a nerve or two. And if you feel a little misdirected, give me a call. We can talk about correcting your branding missteps. It would be my pleasure.

Download our 7 Tips for Improving Your Website eBook and learn more about improving the pitfalls of a weak website.

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