If you’re looking for an example of how to destroy a world-class brand in blink of an eye, use the Susan G. Komen for the Cure as your case study.
Last week, if you had asked me to name the top 10 most revered and valued brands on the planet, Susan G. Komen for the Cure would have been among them, if not near the top.
But this week? Not even close.
It’s unimaginable to me that an organization that had cultivated such goodwill among people from all walks of life could make such a colossal misstep in cutting funding to Planned Parenthood…and then restoring it just a few days later.
Seriously, what are they thinking?
And I’m not even talking about the politics here…we can debate whether it was a politically-motivated move or, as CEO Nancy Brinker asserts, a new policy aimed to maximize grant money. That’s not the issue.
The issue is public relations, or lack there of. How could a brand that seemed so bullet-proof could screw up so royally?
No one should have been shocked at the outcry on social media against this decision, least of all an organization like Komen whose success has been built largely on community-building and fundraising through social media. They knew the potential power of the social media machine, yet they seemed so ill-prepared for the backlash….which is exactly what they got…in spades.
In this day and age, nothing is hidden. Everything is out in the open – whether or not you pull back the curtain yourself. Transparency is key… and without it, you’re done. And that’s even more so for cause organizations. If the public views you as more interested in your brand than the cause you champion – especially a cause as personal and emotional as cancer – they’re going to lose trust.
You can’t build that trust back overnight. Today’s reversal of the decision and subsequent statement is a good start, but frankly it may not be enough. That doesn’t mean it’s impossible for Komen to rebound as a brand, but it’s going to be a long climb back into my top-ten list and that of the scores of corporations who fund them and the millions of men and women who have previously supported them.