Search for Brand Saliency

The other day in a workshop about great challenger brands for one of our clients, a colleague put up the Bugaboo pushchair as his current favourite brand.  I left the world of kids buggies behind some years ago now, (my kids are in secondary school) but his glowing reports about the fabulous sense of independence the Bugaboo delivers to mums of young kids because of its versatility, flexible design and portability, almost made me think about having another baby.

I felt very differently this morning however – I felt thankful I had left my buggy days behind.  The news broke on the radio that Maclaren US had had to withdraw 1 million pushchairs because of an amputation risk after a dozen children had lost fingertips to the hinges.

The story was particularly striking (apart from the squeamish aspect to it) because no spokesman from Maclaren would appear on the radio programme.  Furthermore when I arrived at the office and searched online there was no evident immediate action on the search engines from the company to reassure UK mothers who owned or were considering buying the product.  In the UK the product is not being recalled, and is safety compliant, although a hinge cover kit is available.

I was surprised at the relative silence of both the manufacturer and indeed the retailers who are in my mind, the experts in the arena of mums and babies – the department stores or the baby kit high street retailers.  You might have expected someone to take an advisory role here as a matter of priority as part of their communications strategy and at least offer an opinion.  Indeed this morning was a missed opportunity for someone.

In the era of communications in which we now sit, in the age of dialogue, it is not enough to remain silent when everyone is talking about you, particularly if the story is creating any kind of worry or paranoia – and no-one is as likely to spread anxiety as a worried mum.

Last week I wondered whether the effort that brands invest in creating dedicated destination websites that exemplify all their brand essence can sometimes be misplaced – as you can build a perfect website but no-one will bother to visit you.  The better strategy is to allocate resource to understanding what is being said about you and having the ability to join the dialogue fast, wherever it is happening.

It is possible to use paid for search as a way of reacting fast to any adverse publicity a brand might be getting.  And it is surely necessary in this day and age of real time planning to have a set of tactics around that contingency.  But more than that there is an opportunity to take the higher ground with a brand if it can deliver the right level of reassurance.  So it is an opportunity not just to neutralise an adverse story but to increase brand saliency.

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