Things we've learned by uniting a new agency model with clients who can't afford to do business as usual.

Mistakes: How to Approach the Inevitable

As the new year approaches, we’re all thinking about things we could do differently in 2022, like the mistakes we’ve made and how we could have handled them better. The same applies to brands; brands make mistakes all the time. Whether it is the way a crisis is handled or the method by which they communicate with stakeholders, brands do not always handle issues effectively. 

A few “brands” that recently made what many consider to be mistakes are several prominent players in the National Football League (NFL). These players have, in the eyes of many, misrepresented their vaccination status related to the ongoing pandemic in different ways during the 2021 season, whether in the way they interacted with the media or in how they communicated with their teams. These instances were in direct violation of stated NFL rules and regulations, with several resulting in suspensions without pay. 

Why are we discussing this here? As we discussed above, prominent NFL players, just like the NFL itself, are brands. NFL athletes are very recognizable and are often seen in media beyond game broadcasts, such as in commercials from Nike to State Farm Insurance, to promotional items for Adidas and other organizations. Just like corporate brands, these player situations have the potential to jeopardize their brand equity and “sales,” resulting in fewer endorsements, jersey sales, and visibility through NFL marketing and communications.

Too often, when brands or people make mistakes, they look to minimize them or cover them up entirely. Instead of being forthcoming and taking responsibility, they hope that silence will allow a mistake to blow over and be forgotten. The only problem is that silence or an insincere response is just as recognizable; consumers notice the lack of effective communication. Further, silence does not allow a brand to own the situation; instead, others create the narrative, potentially placing a brand in a worse position than the initial mistake.

What people and brands often fail to recognize is that everyone makes mistakes; we’re human. What is important is to not repeatedly make the same significant mistakes. When an individual or brand recognizes that they have made a mistake, it is imperative to admit the mistake and its consequences. In doing so, the brand displays their authenticity and the fact that they care; when reacting this way, such mistakes can be understood and generally excused.

Fundamentally, it is imperative for brands to recognize the full scope of the issue and its consequences when a mistake is made. By taking responsibility for their actions, while difficult in the short term, brands can set themselves up to be trusted to be honest and forthright with the public when, not if, future mistakes are made. Doing so can make all the difference in the way brands are perceived now, and in the long term. So, as the new year approaches, what mistakes have you learned from, and what are you going to do differently as a result?

Written by Matt Burr - Matt has experience in marketing and communications roles at a number of organizations.

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