Vodafone and its Brand Taliban

Interesting reading about Vodafone refusing to engage with tax-avoidance protestors.(PR Week December 17th ) and how it accords with what I teach in brand management about what I call ‘Brand Taliban’.

Campaigners claim that Vodafone has been guilty of alleged tax avoidance with protestors blockading several stores.

Speaking to PR Week the firm’s group comms chief Bobby Leach said he was resisting any proactive PR drive too set the record straight.

Leach said: “The evidence is there for people who want to look, but I would question whether people want to find out about it.”

“You have an uphill battle if you take a proactive stance, with the risk of it becoming very high profile if you do. Then you run the risk of making yourself more of a target.”

Eschewing traditional PR touchstones of being pro-active and always keeping a dialogue with all your audiences, Leach seems to be following the lessons of what I call ‘Brand Taliban’: there are people out there who do not like you, or your brand.

It may have been something you have done or you happen to be in the crossfire.

Whatever the cause, no matter what you will do, there will be some section of your audience where you are effectively ‘Brand Taliban’.

Each of us has our respective ‘Brand Taliban’; some personal examples are my refusal to frequent the Jamie Oliver Italian restaurant in Cardiff – in spite of being a fan of Jamie. I refuse to go to his Cardiff establishment over a perceived snub.

In my last talk on this subject, examples from the audience of their Brand Taliban included Virgin Media and Sky TV. In both instances, people had felt badly treated, and in return these brands had now occupied a pariah ground: no matter what, these people would not have a good word to say about these brands, and indeed, would go an extra yard to promote negative word of mouth.

When dealing with your own Brand Taliban you are better focussing your resources on your own Brand Evangelists – people who like you and off their own volition promote positive word of mouth about you.

Far too often, communicators adopt a ‘one size fits all’ approach in dealing with different audiences.

In a time-poor, resource -limited world the way ahead is for smarter, targeted working and being flexible and creative in how you manage your own Brand Evangelists and Brand Taliban.

Who are your Brand Taliban?

Where are you Brand Taliban to a brand?

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