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In times like these, Branding 101 and Finance 101 go hand in hand

The dust from Wall Street’s implosion will not be settling any time soon. But being the realist I am (I didn’t say optimist) I know that the air will clear at some point and, that when it does, any brand formerly known as a Wall Street brand is going to have to take serious action with regard to its identity. Being the realistic branding professional I am I know that the solution to a Wall Street-related brand identity crisis is not a matter of geographic relocation, funding a popular charity, image spinning, or a change of signage. The root of this branding crisis goes far, far below the surface. In fact, it’s nothing less than a crisis of confidence and trust. And when consumers lose confidence in a brand, when they stop trusting it, there is no amount of cosmetic change that will help them regain their trust. The solution to this type of rebranding effort involves nothing less than how the brand behaves which means an inside-out, bottom-up-top-down response.

For any brand in this situation, I recommend a short-term plan and a longer term plan, the short-term plan being similar to what happens when a brand is directly responsible for a highly unfortunate event. In this case, the brand in question immediately pulls its marketing from all media channels. It focuses on the daily operation of its business. It doesn’t worry about its image but, rather, about the well-being of those lives it has affected.
Longer term there are a few key steps I would recommend for any brand that doesn’t want the negative associations of Wall Street tarnishing its name as it moves forward. First, I would think about how to best address public concerns about your brand’s role, perceived or real, in the imbroglio. Your job is to rebuild trust. To do so, you must establish what you want your brand to stand for in the minds of consumers and ensure that everyone in your organization understands what this is and their role in bringing it to life. In this transparent digital world, where everyone can see everything, where nothing is immune from a character impugning YouTube video, you cannot promise and spin. You must promise and act - across the board - in ways that authentically and without question support your position. More than this, your brand voice, a literal and figurative component of being the brand you say you are, must also be devoid of spin and slickness. Your messages must be jargon-free, simple and understandable. To paraphrase Warren Buffet, these days you can be damn sure consumers won’t invest in anything they can’t understand.

Just as it’s time to go back to Finance 101, it’s time to go back to Branding 101. Be clear about you want your brand to represent and represent it simply, clearly and honestly. To succeed for the long term, I advise that you look at the long term. To do this, invest time and thought in what it will realistically and tangibly take to rebuild consumers’ confidence in your brand’s role in their financial future.