What To Do When the Devil Wears [Your Brand]

Consumers select brands they regard as matches to their self-image, and a positive public role model associated with your brand helps facilitate this comparison. Once consumers form adverse associations with your brand, this may result in decreased revenue and other financial harm. The more this happens, or the longer it continues unaddressed, the greater the threat that consumers will form a negative association between your brand and a controversial figure.

Managers who find themselves in a similar situation must ask the following three questions: What are the risks from such an incident? What can we do to counteract the criticism? What (if any) long-term consequences have brands suffered because of similar circumstances?

Protecting a brand’s equity and value should be one of an executive’s key responsibilities. Companies buy protection software and use blacklists to stop questionable publishers and endorsers from negatively portraying their brand, for example. But what happens when the brand is displayed unfavorably in an environment that the marketer can’t control?

This is exactly what happened to Italian brand Loro Piana — part of the luxury goods conglomerate LVMH — on March 18, 2022. During a rally televised on Russian state TV celebrating Russia’s unpopular and tagic invasion of Ukraine, president Vladimir Putin wore a $14,000 Loro Piana parka. The parka was identified by public observers and Loro Piana was heavily criticized on social media for not denouncing Putin soon enough.

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