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Leaders apologizing and branding

Financial Week has an article (January 28) about apologizing and members of the C-suite.

"Mattel’s Robert Eckert apologized for lead-tainted toys; JetBlue’s David Neeleman for letting passengers rot on the runway; and Apple’s Steve Jobs for uneven iPhone pricing."

Why are business leaders apologizing so much?

The article answers that "Branding 101 taught us all that a brand is more than a product name or a company logo and that loyalty can’t be bought with an ad. Brand loyalty is a gift from customers to companies that consistently earn their trust and demonstrate credibility over time. It can also be taken away at any time."

What this means is that consumers are ever-ready to withdraw their trust from brand leaders and take it elsewhere. It is upon brand leaders, therefore, to consistently demonstrate that they are worthy of brand trust.

The article tells leaders to be always mindful of whether their communication is good for the brand. Not only that, leaders should open up two-way modes of communication such as customer advisory councils and even a CEO blog.

The article concludes with advice to make sure that "every executive, manager and employee in the company understands what is important to customers and that every meeting ends with one question: “Will this decision help or hurt our brand?”

I think it is important for leaders to be ready to apologize when they do something that violates the brand. Apologizing restores the lost trust between the consumer and the company that could otherwise be expressed in hostile blog or YouTube posts. It is good business.