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When Commercial Brands Become Political Brands

Aside from unexpected disasters such as the Remedia crisis, a regulator campaign against you is probably the worst eventuality that could befell your brand. This is exactly what happened to a series of lovable, market-leading brands, from Coca-Cola to Bamba, which woke up one day to discover that the Health Ministry is buying advertising time to disparage them.

A moment like this does not happen out of the blue. It is the result of profound changes that are taking place in the public’s value hierarchy, of politicians internalizing these changes and of the readiness of professional and political echelons alike to wage such an unusual war. No politician likes to go on a suicide mission. Think about the blow that Yair Lapid suffered as a result of the Arak’s price increase. If a cheap and old-fashioned drink like ARAK could do this to a politician, why would anyone in the almighty Strauss or Central Bottling Company (Coca-Cola) be concerned?

The answer is that even the almighty need to be wary because the old world of immune brands and captive consumers has ceased to exist. If cottage cheese was transformed from Tnuva’s greatest asset to its greatest predicament, even Coca-Cola is no longer secure. Seemingly, the social protest and Litzman’s health campaign are completely unrelated, but in fact, they describe the same phenomenon of the commercial brand that becomes a political brand. The brand’s existence is no longer limited to the world of advertisements, life-style columns or the supermarket shelves. A brand’s perception is shaped today by consumers’ social consciousness, their values, their community affiliation and other news surrounding them. A brand is required to withstand these offensives like a politician campaigning for the elections. Its history and ingredients are placed under the microscope; the statements of the board members are scrutinized and the Facebook posts of the top management are dissected to pieces. As brilliant as it may be, an advertising campaign is just a small part in a system of considerations that determine the brand’s future, for good or bad. No one is immune anymore.

With hard work, money and effort, the food companies may succeed in curbing the advertising campaign against their products, but this will be a mere tactical victory on the road to strategic defeat. If Michelle Obama rids the schools of snacks, why wouldn’t Litzman succeed? A completely new way of thinking is required to address this situation.

So what can be done? The answer is easy to understand but difficult to execute: if your brand is a politician, it needs to be managed like one. It has to be evaluated through social glasses and questions be posed on consumers’ values; lessons must be learned from the experience accumulated around the world and a dialogue conducted with the community in which the brand exists. In other words, you need to ride the wave, not fight it; become the leader of the health revolution rather than be perceived as a company that insists on selling problematic products to children. As every politician knows, the worst thing that could befall your brand is finding itself on the wrong side of history.