The Seven Seals of Brand Apocalypse

The Seven Seals of Brand Apocalypse is a theoretical [yet practical] scale I developed to serve as a real-time measure of perceived brand health, especially in times of crisis. It is useful for the avoidance of brand apocalypse, which I define as a perceived total loss of confidence in the efficacy of a brand.

If I were a PhD writing a journal article, I would have called this, “Brand Apocalyptic Avoidance: A Theoretical and Empirical Conceptualization and the Development of the Seven Seals of Brand Apocalypse.” Aren’t you and I both glad we get to forego such esoteric pleasures?

Practically speaking, given that brands are complex constructs which exist at the intersection of positioning + action (on behalf of the brand) and perception (on behalf of audiences and/or consumers), it is fair to say that brands are living entities — dynamic rather than static — and that events over time (especially at critical junctures) help to impact (and shape) brand perception along a series of dimensions which I have identified as the following, set to a scale of 0-10 (zero being apocalyptic and 10 being euphoric — with 3 serving as the threshold below which Brand Apocalypse is nigh):

  1. Responsiveness. How responsive is the brand to events whether within or outside its immediate sphere of influence? Is it quick to respond in times of crisis by taking a leadership role in contributing to the overall narrative?
  2. Transparency. How transparent is the brand with regard to factors related to an ongoing event? Does it enlighten or obfuscate?
  3. Authenticity. How sincere and/or authentic is the brand in communicating and/or behaving?
  4. Responsibility. How much responsibility does the brand accept rather than deflect? How responsible is the brand behavior as a result of any acceptance of responsibility?
  5. Empathy. How empathetic is the brand to its constituency — whether they be shareholder, consumer or society at large.
  6. Performance. How performance oriented is the brand beyond positioning alone? To what extent does it take action beyond stated aims?
  7. Competence. How competent is the brand in terms of its performance?

The beauty of the above scale is that it can be applied to brands of any kind — from business to politics.

In that spirit, below you will find two examples of The Seven Seals of Brand Apocalypse applied to separate contexts:

The Seven Seals of Brand Apocalypse Applied to a Business Context

The BP Disaster (aka Deepwater Horizon oil spill):

  1. Responsiveness. BP was very slow to respond in any meaningful way to the natural disaster at first [0/10] but as the months went on it is safe to say it was able to raise its responsiveness rate up to [4/10].
  2. Transparency. BP was in obfuscation mode at first [0/10] but eventually launched a website containing a real-time video feed [5/10].
  3. Authenticity. BP adopted a legal tone and came off as inauthentic [0/10] and later attempted to address this with paid ads [3/10].
  4. Responsibility. BP accepted no responsibility at first [0/10] blaming its contractors but later took some responsibility [5/10].
  5. Empathy. BP completely lacked any empathy at first [0/10] and later attempted to address this with paid ads [3/10].
  6. Performance. BP displayed poor performance with its inability to stop the leak for weeks [0/10] and later as it contaminated the water with chemicals while cleaning up its mess [3/10].
  7. Competence. BP’s poor performance overall displayed a lack of competence on behalf of its management [0/10] and overall approach to addressing the situation [3/10].

The above demonstrates BP’s flirtation with Brand Apocalypse as a result of its botched response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. While its performance on all indicators was abysmal at first, its management could have dynamically reacted to each of the seven dimensions in hopes of driving perception up to 10s. However, BP management demonstrated an unwillingness to act or — worse — an inability to comprehend the gravity of the situation necessary for them to behave in the appropriate manner given the circumstances.

The Seven Seals of Brand Apocalypse Applied to a Political Context

George W. Bush’s Response to the 9/11 Attacks:

  1. Responsiveness. When informed that America was under attack, George W. Bush remained seated with a children’s book in his hands [0/10] and an odd expression on his face. He later went on to yell into a bullhorn and start a war [7/10].
  2. Transparency. Bush was a blank canvas during the initial attacks [0/10] and was later only somewhat revealing during the investigation conducted by the 9/11 commission [4/10].
  3. Authenticity. Bush came across as extremely inauthentic given his role and the gravity of the situation upon first hearing of the attacks [0/10] but later embraced his role as Commander in Chief and authentically portrayed the persona of a cowboy on the hunt [10/10].
  4. Responsibility. Bush and his cabinet accepted no responsibility at first [0/10] and little responsibility in response to inquiries from the 9/11 commission [4/10].
  5. Empathy. Bush expressed no empathy for the apparent lives lost when he remained seated in the classroom upon first hearing of the attacks [0/10] and later expressed little empathy for the numerous lives destroyed or lost as a result of his War on Terror though he did show some empathy to the victims and their families [5/10].
  6. Performance. Bush exhibited no performance in response to the initial announcement of the attacks [0/10] and underperformed when declaring Mission Accomplished [4/10].
  7. Competence. Bush displayed a complete lack of competence while seated in the classroom [0/10] and continued to demonstrate incompetence at his handling of the Iraq war [3/10].

The Seven Seals of Brand Apocalypse can be a useful tool in the hands of brand and/or senior management within business or politics needing to dynamically assess perceptions related to their brand health in order to determine appropriate actions for addressing shifts in perception on the road to avoiding Brand Apocalypse.