Crisis Implications for Brands in the ‘Age of Doubt’

Crisis Implications for Brands in the ‘Age of Doubt’

Written by Mike Hatcliffe, RockDove Solutions.


Brands exist in what some describe as the ‘Age of Doubt’.

Brand emergencies have increased in frequency.

Crises occur more often.

The escalation from troublesome issue to major threat evolves more quickly than ever.

The new uncertain world for brands is explored by Brian Kelly, an experienced former CMO and, more recently, founder of his own consultancy, brian brands, in an insightful new chapter in the 2nd edition of RockDove’s eBook, The New Rules of Crisis Management’.

Brands are more important than ever because consumers are more perceptive, informed and exacting, yet mass aspirational communication is no longer enough to win loyalty.

Brands are expected to act with purpose and integrity, create genuine relevant value in every engagement.

One of the major factors that created the ‘Age of Doubt’ is the extent to which consumers are now attached to their smartphones and mobile computing devices. As a result, technology is driving consumers forward.

However, as Brian observes, while these technology advancements have created opportunities for brands to increase consumer touchpoints and deepen connections, they have also created challenges.

With an all-time low level of trust in corporate and government institutions, together with the technology at consumers’ fingertips, consumer response to issues has been democratized.

Whether the brand has taken a public stance on a social or political debate or not, consumers will look at the brand and make judgments on whether they are with them or against them on any particular issue.

Brian calls it the ‘Activist Economy’, with brands increasingly finding themselves in the middle of social and political debates.

The result is that brands must evaluate where they stand or risk leaving their position open and ambiguous and subject to interpretation by consumers.

The three rules identified by Brian that separate brand success or failure in the ‘Age of Doubt’ are:

  • PLAN – Planning to prepare the team to understand the consumers within the context of the marketplace and the brand’s place within it. Scenario training will test the brand team and prepare them for making informed and rapid decisions.
  • ADAPT – A crisis is inevitably a time of change for a brand. Indeed, in extreme cases, all the rules change. The entire organization might be required to adjust. Ego’s, plans and points of view will be under siege. Maintaining spirits and fortifying attitudes is crucial.
  • DEAL – In any large organization, there will be resistance to deviating from standard operating procedure. Whether it be HR, Legal or PR, resistance to solutions will emerge in a crisis. An apology, generosity or a sacrifice will be required to address the situation. Being prepared to negotiate is critical.

Want to learn more? Attend the 2018 Crisis Communications Conference in Chicago on October 16 – 18, 2018.

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