Without its reputation, your brand is nothing

reputation management

Last week Smoking Gun’s Manchester HQ hosted a round table with Prolific North [LINK]. Attended by some of the finest marketing and branding minds in the region, we wanted to know one thing. Just how valuable is a name? 

It’s tragically fitting that this took place just days after the collapse of Thomas Cook. One of the oldest travel companies in the world, with a history spanning 170 years, the business was forced into liquidation for numerous reasons. Fundamentally, its insurmountable debt. But digging deeper reveals a brand that had gone well beyond crisis point.

In the end, Thomas Cook suffered from its own heritage. That which cemented its status as a household name eventually proved to be its demise. Recognised across the globe as a traditional provider of holidays, by upping investment in the high street— in turn ignoring changing travel trends— its name was far removed from words like ‘innovative’. By failing to move with the times, arguably taking steps in the opposite direction, you could argue its fate was sealed.

There has been serious questions asked about the management team making those decisions. As discussed during our recent event, those at the top play a huge role in how any brand is perceived. That means, when alarm bells ring over the choices high powered leaders are taking, they also ring for the entire company. 

 

A key mistake was the assumption that because the Thomas Cook name had been so strong it would always be strong, regardless of the firm’s actual performance. Outdated, outmoded and, over the last decade, increasing out of cash reserves, the fact that 47% of overall value in the FTSE100 stems from corporate reputation speaks volumes about how much trouble there was before the businesses’ days were tangibly numbered. 

How ironic, then, that staff have left the brand stronger than it has been for quite some time. Reports of cabin and ground crew continuing to work long after their contracts became worthless show a dedicated team that genuinely cares about their customers. It’s just a shame that over the last week stories have emerged about huge bonuses directors awarded themselves, calling into question whether this could have been avoided had more responsibility been taken. 

Events like this are incredibly uncommon, thankfully. Hence the largest peacetime repatriation of Britons ensuing. Nevertheless, there are all too-many examples wherein either naivety, arrogance or ignorance has allowed once healthy brands to fall from grace in the eyes of consumers. Sales decline, action isn’t taken to rethink directions and take bold moves to reinvent, and nails are hammered into corporate coffins.

 

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