As Jon Ronson points out in his book ‘So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed’, public shaming ended in the UK and the US in the late 1830’s. Yet, with the rise of social media, we’ve seen a new wave of public shaming and scandal. Sure, we’re not dragging people out to the public square in the centre of town anymore, but much like the tides come in and go out, the digital world is moving from one shaming and scandal to the next at insatiable pace.

Like with everything in life this eventuation is paradoxical. On one hand it is feeding into a culture of fear and blame, the black and white idea that people are either inherently good or bad, the dangerous game of trial by public opinion and has become a form of ‘social control’. Make no mistake it is destroying the careers and lives of real human beings; whether we believe they deserve those consequences or not.

On the other hand, it has created an emphasis on transparency. It’s asking more of brands and leaders and it’s giving people the ability to share and hear more varied opinions and expertise on a range of important topics. Where once the information we received was through very specific channels, now there are more people creating their own platforms and adding to the diversity of global conversation.

The key of course, and a conversation for another day, is how we utilise this new-found power. For example, as influential leaders, are we creating environments that amplify problems? Or, are we approaching our discourse from a problem-solving perspective in a way that progresses the world forward?

How this relates to the topic at hand – brand reinvention – is that this new phenomenon is influencing leadership thinking. Some brands and leaders are already dealing with the fallout of public scrutiny, others are sitting on their hands wondering if they’re next, and the smart brands are being proactive and thinking deeply about how they can reinvent themselves to ensure they are meeting consumer expectations now and into the future.

Reasons why brand reinventions miss the mark

There are many reasons why brand reinventions can go-off half cocked, however here are a few for your consideration:

  1. The reinvention lacks sincerity

How many times have we heard leaders say they care about people and humanity whilst perpetuating practices that demonstrate the exact opposite?

Brand reinvention goes far beyond a marketing exercise and needs to genuinely filter throughout every vein of a business. Consumers are more switched on to, and less tolerant of, lip service than ever before. In order for a reinvention to be sincere, it has to actually be sincere. That is, brands and leaders must genuinely want to be better and do better for the people they serve and lead. The fissures must be thoroughly examined and healed.

  1. The horse has bolted

If the first time you’re thinking about brand reinvention is after a public scandal, then the horse has well and truly bolted. It’s not to say that brands shouldn’t sit down, reflect on what’s happened and put steps in place to rectify it. That is an absolute crucial step. However, it shouldn’t take a public scandal for brands to be thinking about, and acting upon, serving their purpose and market to the best of their ability.

Rather than it being part of damage control, reinvention (whether significant changes or minor tweaks) needs to be an inherent part of leadership and brand culture. You want your brand to be pioneering the way forward, not scrambling to make the finish line.

  1. The reinvention is self-serving

Smart commercial decisions always weigh up and fairly consider the interests and needs of all parties.  However, if the motivation for your brand reinvention is purely self-serving, or designed solely to preserve your public image, instead of truly serving your market, you are entirely missing the point of influential leadership in the modern world. This perspective will skew the outcome of your reinvention and it likely won’t achieve the objectives you were hoping for.

More than anything, true brand reinvention, whether a personal or leadership brand or that of a business, has to first come from a place of truly taking ownership of your mistakes and their impact. This doesn’t mean you always have to publicly disclose them, but you must be prepared to take genuine responsibility for them regardless. This requires the recognition that all leaders have strengths and skills to be developed and true greatness is rooted in a lifelong learning journey.

Shevonne Joyce teaches high calibre leaders and personal brands the secrets of how to be the true go-to brand in their industry. 

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