Brand Resilience


Brand Resilience

Managing risk and recovery in a high-speed world

True and false information spreads like wildfire in the vast and interconnected social media landscape and even the most venerable brands can be leveled in a flash. Brand Resilience has the tools a risk-intelligent enterprise can use to understand and survive in the new media landscape.

About the book

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Read an excerpt from Brand Resilience

Brand risk is at an all-time high. Every day, brand saboteurs are hard at work undermining the investments that organizations make in their brands. While some deliberately seek out opportunities to subvert carefully crafted brand strategies and marketing messages, many are unwitting employees who live within the organization or just outside its borders, as suppliers, channel partners, or spokesmen. 

In a viral world where true (and not so true) news spreads like wildfire, protecting brands from sabotage can be an all-consuming task. 

In this book, Jonathan Copulsky provides the tools and frameworks to help you determine how susceptible your organization is to brand sabotage and some actions you can take to reduce its likelihood and impact. The book discusses roles and responsibilities within your organization for managing the risks of sabotage and identifies ways to make brand risk intelligence a core competency. 

Great brand marketers know what it takes to build great brands. However, for the risk intelligent enterprise, investing in brand-building is no longer enough. In a world filled with intentional and accidental brand saboteurs, companies need to aggressively play defense as well as offense.

Brand Resilience won a silver medal in the Advertising/Marketing/PR/Event Planning category of the 5th annual Axiom Business Book Awards. It was also named among the finalists in the Business-Management & Leadership and Business-Marketing & Advertising categories of USA Book News’ Best Books of 2011.

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Chapter Summaries

Introduction: It’s what you do next that counts

This entertaining introduction shows why the rules of resilience are so crucial in the current moment. Copulsky looks at recent high-profile PR disasters like the Tiger Woods scandal, noting the role that new networked media and the hypercompetitive business environment played, and warns that brands are increasingly vulnerable to threats from intentional and accidental brand saboteurs. As a result, brand owners need to be more deliberate in protecting their investments by aggressively playing defense, and having solid recovery strategies at the ready.

Part One: Why your brand is at more risk than you think in a high-speed world

A Brand New Day: Valuable brands, fragile brands

Copulsky lays out the paradox facing brand owners today: brands are enormously powerful (and becoming more so), but incredibly fragile (and becoming more so). Brands can create enormous value for their owners by enabling premium pricing, high levels of customer advocacy, and greater permission to enter new markets, new customer segments, and new product categories – crucial advantages in a crowded market. However, these same qualities make them more vulnerable than ever, especially given the level of transparency today’s consumer demands. In this chapter, Copulsky shows how to determine brand value, and the factors likely to affect it in the near future.

Marketing as Warfare: The new insurgency

Brand warfare has always been intense, but at least back then it was predictable. Today, it’s a messy affair – your enemies are not always easily identifiable; constantly changing technology allows for improvisation and never-before-seen techniques; and sooner or later, insurgents figure out how to overcome even the most well-planned defenses. Here, Copulsky offers seven steps for tackling brand sabotage, which become the structure for the chapters that follow.


Part Two: Seven steps for managing brand risk and recovery

Step One: Assess brand risks – The enemy within

Brand sabotage comes in many forms – sometimes from the places you least expect. Employees blogging about their job dissatisfaction or your executive team behaving boorishly in public are just two examples of internal sabotage, a huge thorn in the side of several well-known companies in recent years. In this chapter, Copulsky offers a framework for assessing your internal sabotage risks, the motivations behind them, and the potential impacts – to help you head them off at the pass.

Step One: Assess brand risks – Beyond your borders

The more intuitive form of sabotage is external – from competitors, disgruntled customers, activists, or anyone else with a bone to pick. This chapter includes a self-assessment so you can see where your company might be exposed, especially if an attack has already occurred.

Step Two: Galvanize your brand troops

Preventing brand sabotage begins with awareness of the threat. In this chapter, Copulsky discusses how to galvanize your employees to take personal responsibility in detecting and pre-empting threats to the brand. He covers employee use of social media – increasingly an area of concern among many companies – to show how it can be leveraged for good. He also shows how to train your employees to maximize engagement and gather competitive intelligence during the course of their daily work.

Step Three: Deploy your brand risk early warning systems

One of the scariest aspects of the new brand sabotage is that it’s almost impossible to avoid – it could truly happen to anyone. But if you construct an early warning system to alert you to the rumblings of trouble, you can take steps to avert and minimize the damage. In this chapter, marketing executives and others describe the steps they have taken to build and test these early warning systems. Copulsky also evaluates some of the available third-party solutions for assessing and detecting potential threats, particularly those which come from social media. Sidebars profile the companies offering these solutions.

Step Four: Repel the attacks on your brand

It’s hard to know what the best tack to take is after an embarrassing bout of publicity. Apologize? Explain? Stay silently aloof? As recent examples have shown, trying to find someone or something to blame usually doesn’t work, and can sometimes exacerbate the problem. Citing the classic Tylenol crisis case and the more recent Toyota challenges, this chapter focuses on what your company can do AFTER it's been the victim of an act of brand sabotage – to limit fallout, repair public trust, and come out looking better in the end.

Step Five: Learn and adapt your brand defenses

Many sources of brand sabotage can also provide opportunities for insight and growth, but only if you strive for adaptability and flexibility in your brand protection strategy. In this chapter, Copulsky shows how companies can translate one-off responses into more systematic changes that reduce the likelihood of future attacks.

Step Six: Measure and track brand resilience

Your brand is only as resilient as its last response. In this chapter, Copulsky explains the importance of measuring and tracking your brand’s resilience as vigilantly as you would any other vital sign. He discusses the measures involved, as well as potential approaches for monitoring brand sabotage, depending on company size, industry, and risk. He also provides examples of “dashboards” that measure and track relevant data.

Step Seven: Generate popular support for your brand resilience campaign

Organizations work because roles and responsibilities are clear and processes support these roles. This chapter focuses on identifying the roles that various parts of the organization have to play in guarding against brand sabotage, and developing “brand advocates” at every level of the organization. Copulsky pays particular attention to the role of the Board, and how they can set a standard of “risk-intelligent governance” that then trickles down through the organization.

Part Three: A glance ahead

Looking backward, looking forward

Here, Copulsky summarizes the key concepts in the book, and looks ahead to the brand sabotage issues that companies will likely face in the near future. He reviews how to measure the risk to your brand, his recommendations for self-defense, and actionable steps companies can take to reach true brand resilience. While not ensuring a risk-free future, he reminds you that we’re all living in the same fishbowl and that it’s how you handle the inevitable bumps that will ultimately win your customers’ loyalty – and keep your brand strong for years to come.

Ten signs of sabotage

Brand reputation is more precarious than ever before. True and false information spreads like wildfire in the vast and interconnected social media landscape and even the most venerable brands can be leveled in a flash – by disgruntled customers, competing companies, and observers unhappy with the organization’s policies. While some brand saboteurs deliberately seek out opportunities to subvert carefully crafted brand strategies and marketing messages, many are unintentional saboteurs who live within the organization or just outside the organization’s borders – as suppliers, channel partners, or spokesmen.

What are ten signs that you may need to pay more attention to the possibility of brand sabotage?

  1. WikiLeaks is currently featuring all of your confidential documents related to a major safety investigation, including internal emails suggesting that you didn’t follow your own established and documented safety procedures
  2. A group of uniformed employees creates a series of highly embarrassing YouTube videos in which they display less than professional attitudes towards their work, all because they were bored and had nothing better to do with their time
  3. One of your senior executives publicly blames a supplier for product defects, even though the earliest incidents of the aforementioned product defects pre-date your relationship with the supplier
  4. The song that a dissatisfied customer created about his experience with you has been downloaded more than 9 million times, garners the #1 position on iTunes Music Store, and is named by Time magazine as one of the top viral videos of the year
  5. The dissatisfied customer that created a song about his experience with you has just uploaded a sequel
  6. A customer unhappy with the changes that you have made to your product design launches a Facebook group
  7. A government regulatory agency receives nearly 4,700 complaints from customers who have been recruited through the aforementioned Facebook group and Twitter
  8. Your outsource partner (and its relationship with you) is prominently featured in numerous blogs and websites describing allegations of worker mistreatment and workplace safety hazards
  9. Your competitor’s most recent ads trumpet their solution to the performance problems associated with your most recent product days after its launch
  10. You can’t tell your shareholders the value of your brand, much less how the value of your brand has fared over time when all of the previous nine things happen

Acclaim for the book

"Be afraid. Be very afraid. Brands are now so valuable that damage to them can mean millions or billions in lost profits, while threatening the very foundation of a business —its customer loyalty. Luckily, history gives us good models for defense against such threats, and Copulsky does an outstanding job of showing how brand stewards can apply these models to keep their brands safe. A must-read for everyone who cares about the future of their company."

-Marty Neumeier, author of The Brand Gap


"Shakespeare tells us that: ‘who steals my purse steals…nothing…But he that filches from me my good name…makes me poor indeed.’ In a world where brands are more vulnerable than ever, Copulsky does a terrific job of clearly identifying the risks to your ‘good name’ and providing a blueprint for proactively managing these risks. His insights on how to play aggressive brand defense are invaluable."

-Mark Zupan, Dean, Simon School of Business and Professor of Economics and Public Policy


"Increasingly, brand value and trust are influenced less by what companies say and more by what others say about them. Today’s social networks provide a great opportunity for companies and their customers to amplify a brand’s qualities, but not without risk. Copulsky does a great job describing how these powerful social networks can also quickly damage brands. This book is a must-read for anyone involved with shaping and delivering brand strategy."

-Chris Abess,VP Strategic Marketing, SunPower Corporation


"The battlefield has shifted from building to protecting brands and Copulsky ’s Brand Resilience is the perfect guide in this new arena."

-Allen Adamson, author of BrandSimple and Brand Digital


“Because women make and break 80 percent of all consumer brand relationships, I never thought that I would look to a U.S. Army Field Manual for guidance on brand management. In a social media world where every mad customer has a megaphone, a strong defense is as important to brand value as a carefully constructed branding program. A brand crisis is virtually inevitable. Copulsky's thoughtful, well-researched, and articulate book will give you the tools to survive the crisis and thrive in the aftermath."

-Marti Barletta, author of Marketing to Women and Prime Time Women


"Copulsky has hit the nail on the head. You better be ready with a contingency plan if your brand takes a surprise hit, which can come from anywhere. An untimely or awkward response to a crisis can destroy you, while a brilliant response can strengthen you. Copulsky doesn't just state the problem; he prescribes actions."

-Jim Schroer, former CEO, Carlson Marketing; EVP Sales & Marketing Chrysler; VP Global Marketing, Ford; and Partner, Booz Allen & Hamilton

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Jonathan Copulsky

Principal | Consulting