The VW emissions crisis brings home just how important brand honesty is. The German automotive company has come under intense pressure over cheating emissions tests, which will undoubtedly have tarnished its image among consumers. As it turns out, swathes of VW’s leadership have been aware of these issues for years, and the news that the company’s USA chief executive has known about the defect devices since last year is likely to further damage the brand’s image.
In a recent blog we examined the importance of organisations coming clean about mistakes, and how it can actually enhance brand image. Indeed, marketers have long appreciated how positioning a brand as honest and trustworthy can lead to success. Innocent is an excellent example of this. By placing ethics at the heart of everything they do they have been able to grow from a small enterprise into an international giant in the FMCG sector, having been bought by Coca-Cola in 2013 for an undisclosed sum.
Brands need to be careful, however, as Coke will be able to testify as internet campaigners encourage people to replace the #ShareACoke hashtag with #ShareHonesty instead, to highlight the sugary drink’s apparent link to obesity.
While VW’s size and importance to the German government means it will probably survive these troubling times, it needs to think carefully about its branding going forward. The road to redemption will undoubtedly be long, but by building an image centred on transparency and core ethics, the car manufacturer will be able to shake off its negative image. The effluxion of time will no doubt help too!