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The Image That Started The #newlabattcampaign

1. You Don’t Own Your Brand

A company can create a marketplace position for their brand. A company can make promises about their brand. A company can buy ads to reinforce their position and promise. However, a company doesn’t decide what the brand means for their customers.

In the case of Labatt, their brand tagline is “Bringing the good stuff to loyal fans by continuing the brewing tradition since 1847.” So how does (allegedly) threatening legal action against a newspaper serve to prove that Labatt’s is “bringing the good stuff to loyal fans?”

This is a great example of a fundamental law of marketing – A brand’s reputation is decided in the hearts and minds of their consumers.

Lesson:

Match your company actions to your promise. The only people Labatt really needs to worry about are their fans. As long as the fans know that the company has their back, then it doesn’t matter what is said or posted in the press. Labatt Blue has 35,000+ Facebook fans. Showing a little love to their people and explaining the company’s disappointment with the image would have served two purposes. First, it would have gone further in generating support than (allegedly) threatening legal action and second, it serves as proof to their loyal fans that Labatt is all about bringing the good stuff.

2. Mitigate Risk Using Newton’s First Law of Motion

Your External Force Can Create Movements

Newton (and Julius Sumner Miller) said that bodies at rest tend to stay at rest unless acted upon by an external force. Mitigating risk under these conditions meant having the foresight to leave the Blue-Magnotta image alone. It was a non-issue until Labatt acted as the external force and brought attention to the image.

Like so many other companies, Labatt has successfully placed their logo on nearly every square inch of Canada. Tshirts, bags, signs, restaurants, towels, concerts are all fair game. I’m sure Labatt would put their logo on a crispwhite mountain if they could buy one and really, who could blame them for trying.

Nobody can plan for the unexpected. Thats why it’s called unexpected when a brand becomes associated with a murderer.

Lesson: Brand association with a murderer was as likely to happen to Labatt as it is with Disney, Molson or Lexus or any other company that gives away branded swag. In general, the improbability of this association shifts public support on the side of the brand. Legal action by Labatt seemed to be the external force powerful enough to break the inertia of the public sympathy. If the brand has real concerns, they could get a pulse on the issue by opening discussion with their loyal fans before taking legal action.

3. This Too Shall Soon Pass

It's Not All Bad

If people didn’t care about your brand, they wouldn’t be talking about it. While Labatt may be caught up in the maelstrom of dark-humor Tweets, there are lifeboats emerging. In fact, Labatt has a growing number of supporters surfacing from this debacle. Boyd Neil @boydneil, the Social Media Practice Leader at communications firm Hill & Knowlton points pointed out to me that “lots of PR lessons will be given by social web pundits and eventually sound thinking will prevail”.

Lesson: Consumers are intelligent. They can offer a variety of unique opinions. Listen to all of them and make heroes out of your supporters.

Further Reading On This Story

MacLeans

Toronto Standard

Globe & Mail

  • http://twitter.com/lowqis Laura Brouwer

    Funny,
    because Disney was associated with this as well in a similar way.
     Magnotta was wearing a Mickey Mouse t-shirt when he was caught on camera
    at an airport. They chose not to say anything (that I know of). The situation
    with  Trayvon Martin comes to mind.
    He was shot in Florida (apparently in defense), but all he carried on him was a
    pack of skittles. Although  Wm. Wrigley Jr. Company could
    have used the situation as PR, they just issued a statement regarding the
    tragedy expressing condolences. Albeit, it was the victim who had the product
    and possibly Labatt may have reacted differently had a picture of the victim
    enjoying a Blue been used.

    • http://blog.marcbinkley.ca Marc Binkley

      Thanks for adding to this Laura! I read that Skittles became a symbol for Trayvon’s friends, so it could be that Wrigley’s just had a different situation that didn’t need defending. 

  • http://twitter.com/PamelaPowered Pamela Foster

    I think you missed a great opportunity to compare Labatt’s knee jerk reaction to a disciplined company like Disney.  Did they challenge the media to take down the pictures of Magnotta pictured at the train station security check point wearing the Disney shirt?  The incident is a wake up call for companies to find the time and resources to develop a solid social media strategy with a risk management component before this happens to them.  How much market share can anyone afford to lose, even if for a few days?

    • http://blog.marcbinkley.ca Marc Binkley

      Thanks Pamela, I heard about Disney as well.  There wasn’t much I could find in terms of corporate response so I kept it out.  I agree with you that its important for companies to have, at the very least, a social media contingency plan in place should they become a target.

  • Pingback: Relation Publique et Médias Sociaux « MarketinG²

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