Brands and Politics – a Compromising Dilemma

Once brand, different opinions

Once brand, different opinions

Yesterday’s news of the leader of the EDL Tommy Robinson causing a stir at Selfridges when a member of staff refused to serve his friend, all conveniently documented on video and published on YouTube, has seen many finger wagging for or against the reaction of the retail brand.

Whilst the suspended shop assistant is not receiving any disciplinary action, the brand’s PR team will have a bit of work cut out for them to counter the dismay of many about the fact that they apologised profoundly and offered the two shoppers a free lunch – which, may I add, at £80 does not exactly do them any favours in this situation.

It reminded me of one of the key tasks and capabilities of a brand strategy that is thought-through and includes risk assessments and training for all those involved in representing the brand. This may not be the worst-case scenario, but the clash of political opinions, especially in a high profile brand that will frequently be dealing with well-known personalities or celebrities, and how to behave humanly yet with the brand values in mind surely seems one eventuality worth considering.

A Selfridges spokeswoman said ‘We’ve been in business since 1909 and we serve everybody regardless of who they are or their political views.

‘We investigated the incident involving one of our sales assistants and he fully understands our position and we won’t be taking any further action.

‘The suspension has been lifted and he is aware he can’t refuse to serve customers.’

The shop manager’s decision to apologise may thus have been in line with the view from the top, but it backfired in how it was perceived by us normal folk and seems to have brought to light a discrepancy in values between management and staff on the shop floor, never a good sign for brand managers.

Politics are precarious of course and with all the equal rights and freedom of speech elements, it is a complex one for sure. It’s just tragic that the only winner out of this one is actually the leader of the EDL who got great coverage and will perhaps find his upcoming court appearance for public order offences on October 22 eased by the media attention.

Could have gone better, Mr Selfridges

About Regine Wilber

Brand strategist and designer with a passion for all things surrounding brand creation, design and management - and social media..
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