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Should brands change course based on negative customer feedback?

Welcome to Question Friday where I try to tackle a marketing or advertising question. For my first installment, I was wondering, “Should brands change course based on negative customer feedback?”

Note: I am not referring to how much companies should listen to their main consumer base when it comes to developing products or using customer response rates to refine marketing and advertising tactics.

I am referring to a brand’s image, how a company is perceived in the mind of the customer. So, how much should a brand listen to consumers when trying to further develop their brand?

Social media has created an unprecedented time where each customer has a voice to let companies know what they think. This is great for crowdsourcing, co-creation, and gaining a sense of how customers react to a company in real time. But, at what point does listening to the consumer hold a brand back from realizing its full potential as the company grows and changes?

After all, companies may receive backlash for the changes they make. One example of this is Gap, they received so much backlash to updating their logo that it was removed after only one week. While the logo change prior to any type of product or store change may have been premature, they were only trying to move the brand forward. But, due to customer feedback, they kept the brand’s logo as is. However, Netflix was able to successfully change their logo because they changed as a company and then adjusted the logo.

Before making any large branding changes, companies may want to consider:

Is this increasing the positive associations feelings that primary customers will have about your brand?

Work to decrease negative associations or feelings, rather than increase them. New Coke taught everyone the lesson about knowing what people want out of a brand.

Is this change going to make my company more competitive for the future?

Netflix updated its brand with the times, it moved the company forward both internally and externally.

Is it in line with my company values and mission?

BP experienced an incongruous logo and company when they tried to re-brand in 2000.

Are the external branding changes being reflected with real change internally?

Why adjust an image if the new representation is inaccurate? Customers will be able to see through an inaccurate representation, like in the case of Gap.

Do these changes make sense?

Change for the sake of change, is not always the way to go. Learn from these companies how not to brand.

If a company remains true to their mission; has reflected their image changes with significant internal adjustments such as new policies, areas of investment, etc.; and is updating themselves to be more competitive; then it may be worth it to weather negative feedback. Brands can update their image for the better, and these companies did it especially well.

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