A week ago last Sunday, millions of Americans watched The
Oscars. As everyone now knows, "Moonlight" won the best
picture award, but only after "La La Land" was first
accidentally announced as the winner. Also, as many people now
know, this mistake occurred because an envelope was misdelivered by
one of the co-ballot leaders from the accounting firm that handles
the voting process for the awards show.
PriceWaterhouseCoopers ("PwC") has held the balloting
responsibility for the Oscars for decades. PwC's promotional
materials tout the relationship to bolster its reputation:
This video is an example of how associations with events,
organizations, causes, and people can develop the connotations
associated with a brand. We have seen this happen when brand owners
launch advertising campaigns to signal support
for various political or social causes.
Another way that mark owners extend the reach of their brand is
to enter into license agreements that associate the mark with new
goods and services in the minds of consumers. In this case,
PwC's video links the attributes that make it a successful
accounting firm with those that made it a choice for handling the
balloting responsibility for the Oscars. PwC says it was asked to
take on this role because of its "integrity, accuracy, and
confidentiality." In the video, the co-balloters explain the
importance of their responsibility for maintaining the confidence
of the ballots in their possession until the time the winner is to
Linking the accounting firm's reputation with this
particular task, one that is seen by more of the public than most
of PwC's other daily work, may have helped build the goodwill
of PwC's name and reputation.... until the mistake at the most
recent awards ceremony. Having spent all this time and effort to
associate the good name of PwC with the balloting work for the
Oscars, how is PwC to repair its reputation after the public error
witnessed by millions of viewers?
PwC is not the first mark owner to suffer unexpected injury to
its goodwill in this way. And it is possible to rebuild the
goodwill in a brand even after much greater injuries. Perhaps the
most well-known (and successful) brand rehabilitation campaign was
Johnson & Johnson's recovery after Tylenol capsules on
store shelves were poisoned, resulting in deaths of seven consumers
in the early 1980s. The brand owner moved quickly. First, it
protect consumers' interests with an unprecedented recall of
the product and implemented new safety features in the packaging to
reassure consumers that the capsules they were about to consume
were free of tampering. Then it communicated this clearly through
advertisements that emphasized Tylenol's good reputation.
Fortunately for PwC, it is not facing nearly as dire a scandal.
It need not go through the same steps to recover from this injury,
but it can consider applying some of the same principles that made
brand rehabilitation possible.
First, take responsibility. PwC promptly apologized, twice. In
its second apology, it clearly accepted the blame. Second, take
action. Apologizing does little if the brand owner does not take
steps to prevent the error from happening again. For Johnson &
Johnson, that meant a issuing a recall and implementing new
packaging. For PwC, it might mean something much less drastic. For
example, improvements to protocols and procedures (or ensuring
adherence to them) could provide the necessary reassurance in this
case. Third, tailor the response and messaging to the nature of the
damage. This is where PwC's judgment will be most tested. The
Oscar scandal was very public, and embarrassing, but the severity
and permanence of the damage suffered by third parties is
relatively low. PwC will have to assess how much damage was done to
its reputation among its core audience and focus its rehabilitation
Trademarks are symbols of goodwill and reputation. Brand owners
choose strong marks and spend years and dollars building up the
strength of the goodwill associated with those marks. Few companies
escape the occasional mistake, embarrassment, or unfortunate
association. How companies respond to such circumstances can
determine whether and how successfully a company repairs and
rebuilds its brand and reputation.
The lawyers at Trademarkology provide trademark registration
services backed by the experience and service of one of the
nation's oldest law firms. Click
hereto begin the process of protecting your brand
name with a federally registered trademark.
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