Building a recognizable brand that attracts customers requires a lot of investment. Companies spend millions each year on efforts to bring their brands to the forefront. Almost every company strives to create brands that become household names, because they want their brands to become well known. Even so, the old cliché that all publicity is good publicity does not hold true for building brands. Popularity is favorable, but notoriety can damage a brand that took decades to build, in just a few seconds.
Recently, a video of a Taco Bell executive attacking an Uber driver went viral online. All eyes turned to Taco Bell to see how they would handle the bad spotlight the media cast on one of their own. Taco Bell responded by firing the marketing executive to protect their brand. They also issued a statement declaring his behavior made him unfit to work for the company. In essence, Taco Ball fired their brand manager to protect their brand.
Golden addressed the incident and accepted full responsibility for his actions. Besides losing his job, he faces two lawsuits and criminal charges that could land him in prison for a year. It seems reasonable Taco Bell chose to let him go, but does it actually do anything for the brand? Taco Bell’s greatest threat involves tampering with their food. Incidents which threaten their employees’ and customers’ safety also could prove devastating to the brand. The attack, though vicious, had nothing to do with the company and the industry in which they work.
Still, customers pay attention to companies and how they manage crisis. When a bad incident goes viral and causes an emotional response in the masses, people take sides. Not only do they choose a side, but they want to know what side brands choose. Had Taco Bell not fired Golden, the company could seem complicit in his actions. By cutting ties with Golden, the company washed their hands clean of the incident and maintained the public’s trust.
Companies must take advantage of this attachment people form with them, based on the sides they take on issues. Customers no longer make their buying decisions on just quality products and catchy ads. The public cares about how companies react to issues in society, like global warming and random acts of violence. Taco Bell wisely recognized how their treatment of the issue reflected on their brand. Their decision became even more impressive, because they made the decision without the help of their brand manager.
Roman Temkin is a real estate developer from NYC.