Tag Archives: crisis communication

Naming a New Brand is Tricky!

How important is naming a new brand? It is absolutely critical – and also exceedingly difficult to accomplish. Marketers have to come up with a new name that represents the product’s value and attributes, AND be attractive to customers, AND it must not be taken by another company, AND is not too common a name, AND is not offensive to any population. Whew. No wonder so many companies use made-up words as brand names.

A recent case about the perils of naming a new brand was the ‘Kimono’ shapewear brand developed by celebrity icon Kim Kardashian West. Although the branding was rigorously researched, the ‘Kimono’ name was criticized globally as being offensive and profiting from a traditional clothing article that was a cultural symbol of Japanese heritage. The name had to go, along with the Kimono Web site, logo, labels, and more. More than two million garments will need to be relabeled so that no products are wasted.

The stakes are high for the new brand. The global women’s underwear industry is valued at approximately $83.3 billion and is still growing. It is also fragmented with new comers gaining market share at the expense of older more established brands. To her credit, Kardashian West listened to criticisms and has decided to change the name prior to releasing any product. (The new name has not yet been announced.)

What’s in a name? Everything!

Group Activities and Discussion Questions:

  1. Poll students about their viewpoints on the Kimono name. Do they agree with the decision to change the name?
  2. Discuss competition: Who are the direct competitors for this product? Indirect competitors?
  3. For ‘Kimono’ put students into teams and have each team build a SWOT analysis.
    1. Strengths: What is the company good at?
    2. Weaknesses: What needs work?
    3. Opportunities: What is going on in the marketplace that is positive?
    4. Threats: What factors should the company be wary of?
  4. Put students into teams. Have each team develop a new name for the Kimono brand.
  5. Post the names on the board and vote on a winner.

Source: Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Fast Company, other news sources

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When is it Necessary to Rebrand?

Everyone is likely to be familiar with the pizza brand Papa John’s. And, many people likely also recognize the image of the head of the company, founder John Schnatter. After all, it’s his face and name on the company and the product. Schnatter’s entrepreneurial story has been a big part of the company’s brand image and his visage has prominently been featured in its marketing and promotion activities.

However, Schnatter’s name and face have been in hot water after he recently made a racial slur on a conference call with its ad agency. (Note: The agency dropped Papa John’s as a client after the call.) This comes on top of Schnatter’s controversial NFL statements a year ago, criticizing football players who knelt (instead of standing) for the national anthem, and blaming them for lower pizza sales.

Eventually, the NFL ended the Papa John’s relationship and signed with Pizza Hut as the official pizza partner of the NFL. Also breaking ties with Papa John’s is Major League Baseball, eliminating its co-branded marketing efforts.

The big question: Should Papa John’s rebrand?

Group Activities and Discussion Questions:

  1. Poll students: When should a company rebrand? What is the impact of a visible company leader who crosses a line in society?
  2. Divide students into teams. Have each team research and discuss what happened with Papa John’s in regards to negative press.
  3. Poll teams: Should the company rebrand?
  4. Have teams list what would be involved in order to rebrand. What should the new brand look like?
  5. View the response from Papa John’s to its customers: https://www.papajohns.com/open-letter/
  6. Debrief the exercise.

Source: CNN Money,  USA Today, Brandchannel.com, and other news sources

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Uber Autonomous Car Accident

Autonomous cars have clocked thousands of hours and millions of miles without having an accident. In fact, one of the original reasons for developing autonomous cars was to lower automobile accident rates. (According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2016 more than 37,000 people died in traffic-related accidents in the U.S. alone.)

Yet, despite all the precautions, technology, testing, training, and resources, an autonomous car operated by Uber (with an emergency backup driver behind the wheel) hit and killed a pedestrian on a street in Tempe, Arizona. This is the first reported pedestrian death that is linked to autonomous driving, and a stark reminder that the technology is still in an experimental stage. Although the technology has been around now for close to a decade, there are many unpredictable situations that the cars have not yet been programmed to handle. Many of these situations also present ethical dilemmas, as well as life-and-death decisions.

Uber has suspended testing the autonomous cars in Tempe, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, and Toronto. Toyota has also suspended its autonomous driving program.

What will be the impact on the public perception and the technology?

Group Activities and Discussion Questions:

  1. Discuss the pros and cons of autonomous cars with students.
  2. Show a video from Uber that explains its autonomous car project: https://youtu.be/27OuOCeZmwI
  3. Discuss public relations and crisis communications.
  4. Have student go online to read comments and stories about the accident.
  5. What statements did Uber make? What additional statement were made by other autonomous car companies?
  6. Did Uber take appropriate action following the accident?
  7. Divide students into teams. Have each team prepare a crisis communications plan for Uber. Include in the plan: spokespeople, news outlets, key message statements, timing of responses, social media, etc.

Source:  New York Times, Wall Street Journal, other news sources

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