Stars and scandals

I’m not a huge one for the ins and outs, behaviours and otherwise of the fashion world (preferring to leave such pursuits in the experienced hands of friends like Jack), but I did take some note of the recent John Galliano scandal because it highlights the risk that brands take when they associate themselves so closely with an individual who is a brand in their own right.

It’s not always bad of course. Steve Jobs turned up for the iPad2 launch, and everyone took heart. The stock price even went up. And in fashion, most would agree I think that designers like Marc Jacobs and Karl Lagerfield have done wonders for the brands they are associated with. Galliano too up until this point. But how quickly, and dramatically, things can change.

Almost every brand today it seems is just one YouTube clip away from a crisis.

And when things go wrong in this kind of situation, there is fallout on three levels: the individual’s brand suffers; the employer’s brand suffers; and the halo effect that I would call the relationship brand also suffers. It’s still early days, but that’s what has certainly happened here. Galliano is in disgrace. Dior is on the defensive. And inevitably a whole range of things are being called into question.

The wider message here for brands, of all types and sectors, is that if you have public-facing “stars”, they can be significant assets, but their potential to compromise your brand, particularly in these days of the three second clip, extends into areas well outside your own sphere of influence.

In this case, we’re talking about someone whose employed. But the same situation, from a branding point of view, exists for sponsorships, endorsements, third party agents, contractors … anywhere there’s a link back to your brand that you are promoting in order to cement perception. It could be a person, it could be a show, it could be a team, it could be your rainmaker or your top performing salesperson.

The scary thing about investing in a “name” is that you are investing not just in what they do at work for you but what they do, or don’t do, outside of work hours. Reputation never sleeps – which can make the face of any brand, yours or not, appointed or otherwise, a 24 hour goldmine or a round-the-clock nightmare.


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