Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Sony hits a sour note

Here's a tip: Profiting from someone else's misfortune or death always reflects badly on your brand.

Sony found out the hard way this weekend after they hiked the wholesale price of Whitney Houston's "Ultimate Collection" by 60% on iTunes in Great Britain just hours after her death. After much hue and cry from her fans, Sony lowered the price and attributed the mysterious increase to a "error" by an individual employee.

Even if I believed that excuse, then it only demonstrates how weak and ill-defined Sony's brand is.

A strong brand not only provides a recognizable image and position of your company and products for consumers, it also helps guide decision making for your employees. If your brand values are to treat customers fairly and with respect and they are clearly communicated to your employees, this "error" doesn't happen.

If, on the other hand, your values are to maximize profits and shareholder return on investment, this is exactly the kind of decision you make. It's why people are skeptical of the motives of companies like Sony, Bank of America, Walmart, BP and Ticketmaster. And why their brands have taken a beating over the past few years.

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