“It takes a lifetime to build a good reputation, but you can lose it in a minute,” according to Will Rogers.
Or as Warren Buffet put it, “A great reputation is like virginity – it can be preserved but it can’t be restored.”
Volkswagen’s emissions debacle has been the biggest proof point of this principle in marketing. VW is one of the most beloved brands associated with some of the most memorable advertising in history. Yet it’s hard to imagine in what form the brand will recover.
There’s a great article from Edward Boches in Adweek that recalls Volkswagen’s 1960 “Lemon” ad to discuss how fall the brand had fallen.
“This Volkswagen missed the boat. The chrome strip on the glove compartment is blemished and must be replaced. Chances are you wouldn’t have noticed it; inspector Kurt Kroner did…”
“We pluck the lemons; you get the plums.”
Edward Boches’ article concludes, “Too bad Kurt Kroner wasn’t still around.”
I think that’s a really interesting metaphor for any brand to consider: where do you draw the line on what is considered a Lemon?
In any organization, we’re faced with constant decisions and compromises. Most of these decisions aren’t as severe or consequential as emissions deception. Most are in the territory of a blemished chrome strip. But I think if we allow enough blemished chrome strips, it becomes easier to make other compromises.
I once heard someone from Innocent Drinks define a brand as “made up of thousands of nice, little touches”. All of those touches are from everyone in the organization who touch and shape the brand and make it what it is.
We all have the opportunity to be Kurt Kroner.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on building (and preserving) a brand’s reputation and the values that guide what’s considered a Lemon.