What Adidas teaches us about leadership in brands

Brands are all about emotions.  Yes – emotions first, logic second.  The loyal supporters – fans, consumers or followers – are emotionally engaged with the brand story and will willingly give of their preference and pockets to their cherished brands.

But what happens when the brand does something the consumers don’t like – as has been the case of the All Black Jersey and their Corporate Supporter – Adidas.

All Blacks are part of the Kiwi cultural DNA and therefore our core identity. And fans have been hugely upset by the fact that the All Blacks rugby jersey cost almost twice as much in NZ when much cheaper jerseys can be purchased off shore.  And then to add salt to the wound, NZ got removed from some of the sites so Kiwi fans couldn’t even do this!

When fans start to feel taken for granted, “ripped off”, forgotten or disadvantaged in some way, then brand integrity is at stake big time and brand reputation comes under challenge.

With the Rugby World Cup just a few weeks away  – it‘s a real shame that a time when Adidas could have harnessed all the energy, positivity and good will of the people of New Zealand, they have gotten  themselves so much on the wrong side of the pitch.

But it still isn’t too late – ultimately brands are driven by people and as human beings we do “stuff up” from time to time.  The point is how quickly we are able to put things right.

The situation can still be recovered and turned around from being a permanent blight for Adidas or a bad aftertaste for the fans.  It can also be saved then from the  embarrassing history annuls of how not to do PR including   alienating  your fans and consumer base  at such a crtical time.

 The Adidas executives need to address the critical missing piece they seem to have consciously or unconsciously been blindsided by.These are the skills and competencies of emotional intelligence (EQ or EI).

You see no matter how logical, rational and cost effective – plausible or implausible – their arguments are, they are still operating at the level of the head.  For fans on the other hand, this has become an emotional issue.   Adidas executives need to draw on Einstein’s wisdom here – “The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them.”

So dear Adidas executives, listen up.   Firstly, it’s never too late to say sorry, change your strategy and say okay – we stuffed up this time BUT here is what we are going to do to put it right with the fans.    Simply fronting up on TV to argue your entrenched case is not going to do it.

On the other hand, putting it right for the Kiwi fans and showing some nobility of heart and spirit will see you right.  Yes – you may lose some money as will some of the retailers but what you will gain will far outweigh this in the annuls of time.  And Kiwis – you will find are forgiving and generous of heart and spirit when they have been heard and the right action has been honoured.

Jasbindar Singh is a leadership coach and an EQ /SQ specialist – www.sqconsulting.co.nz. You can also find her article on this topic in  Management magazine  ( March, 2011) which also has other fantastic coverage on leadership.

Photo source: Natasha Martin, Timaru Herald (thumbnail only)

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