Findus Provides Branding Food for Thought

The cautionary old adage ‘you get what you pay for’ has taken on an unpalatable extra dimension over the past few days.  The 100% Findus beef lasagne that turned out to be almost exclusively made of horse meat illustrated that sometimes you not only get less than you paid for; you may also get more than you bargained for. In many ways, I sympathise with Findus: the company has been let down by its supply chain having seemingly bought the meat as beef in good faith.  The problem is, whether Findus bought the meat in good faith or not, the fact that the problem was with the supply chain and not with the company’s own production processes will do little to protect their brand. Even if we put the rights and wrongs of due diligence aside, it was the Findus name on the packet and all over the news coverage and that’s where the mud of negative public opinion will stick.

In just the same way, the onus is on every company across all sectors to take ownership of quality control and ensure that their suppliers help them deliver their brand values.  In construction, that could be as simple as ensuring the sub-contractors wear suitable PPE on site or that suppliers don’t block access for local residents during deliveries.

The mistake that many people make is in believing that a brand is a logo and perhaps a set of key messages; that it exists simply to make marketing materials look like they match and provide an opportunity to create visual recognition amongst target customer groups.  Certainly, an effective and consistent brand should do all of that, but that’s not all a brand is. A brand is a set of values that are delivered through everything that a company does and every channel it uses to communicate. So any brand that puts quality, customer care and trust at its heart should not only provide reliable information to its customers but should also be accountable for the consistency of its supply chain.

There are clearly big issues at stake here and criminal investigations are already underway, but one of the most interesting elements of this news story for me is how the Findus brand will fare after this debacle and what other brands in the sector will do to protect themselves as investigations into meat ingredients supply chains continue.

A brand takes years to build but can be damaged overnight.  The Findus revelations demonstrate that protecting your brand from the threat of damage requires three key steps:

  1. Ensure that every aspect of your business supports your brand
  2. Understand the major threats to your brand and prepare for risk

Communicate effectively and with integrity if an issue should arise