Handling brand attacks in the media

The least popular orange person of our times, President Donald Trump, attacked major luxury brand Nordstrom for dumping his daughter Ivanka’s clothing line earlier this year. Though Nordstrom had a completely justifiable reason to do so, the potential damage to their brand could’ve been HUGE!

Owing to Trump’s credibility issues (understatement of the year), as well as other brands following suit in the boycott, Nordstrom escaped relatively unscathed.

However, this often isn’t the case, with detrimental consequences commonly following attacks on brands from the likes of journos, bloggers or social influencers. And of course, presidents of powerful countries.

So, what should you do if your brand comes under unsuspecting attack in the media? Here are four key tips for coming out the other end in good shape.

1 . Set the record straight – short, sharp and simply

In Nordstrom’s case, they did the right thing and set the record straight in a no-fuss, logical manner. They kept their cool and offered a simple explanation.

Nordstrom provided a statement following President Trump’s tweet, stating “… we made this decision based on performance. Over the past year sales of the brand have steadily declined to the point where it didn’t make good business sense for us to continue with the line for now.”

They also issued numerous replies to questions on Twitter, diplomatically reiterating that it was merely good business and not politically motivated.



The end result? Nordstrom’s shares surge 8.4%, and their brand continues to thrive.

2. Do absolutely nothing

As the saying goes, all publicity is good publicity. So, depending on the space your brand occupies in the minds of your target market, it could very well capitalise on an attack by not reacting at all.

When Wicked Campers came under fire for plastering highly objectionable slogans all over their vans, their brand position – albeit antagonistic in nature – was actually bolstered. This was heavily contributed to by the company’s lack of response to public complaints, and subsequent Advertising Standards Authority rulings. Their “we don’t care what you think” posture, which one can safely assume aligns with the attitude of most customers behind the wheel, sustained the business for a good eight years.

Thankfully Wicked Campers wings have since been clipped, with laws now permitting de-registration of offensive vehicles in certain states.

3. Address brand attacks (nicely) ASAP

Social media is a key platform for brand attacks. It’s immediate and accessible, endorsed by the general public and can gain momentum in minutes.

One of the most legendary brand attacks of recent times occurred with Greenpeace using Facebook to criticise Nestlé for sourcing palm oil from companies engaged in Indonesian and Malaysian deforestation.

Nestlé eventually replied to the flood of negative comments on their Facebook page arrogantly, avoiding the subject of unethical palm oil sourcing, instead of taking offence to the posting of altered company logos. This brought about more negative publicity, culminating in company apologies and the release of a statement denouncing rainforest destruction.

The lesson here? Respond to social media negativity in a timely, direct and respectful manner. Don’t avoid the subject. Don’t poke the beast.

4. Call porky pies

Many people see big companies, and their brands, as fair game for attack. Whether such attacks are justifiable and hold any water is another question entirely.

American fast food chain Chipotle Mexican Grill have always been voluntarily open about the nutritional value of their food. They came under attack from an anonymous lobby group named Center for Consumer Freedom (CFF) in 2015. CFF released an advertisement accusing Chipotle of exaggerating the healthiness of their products. They also went as far as to publish a website defaming the brand and calling them hypocrites in terms genetically modified ingredients and animal welfare ethical claims – none of which was backed up by hard evidence.

This attack was labelled a smear campaign with an unknown agenda, and faded away when called out for such.

Cuckoo has helped businesses recover from these kinds of challenging scenarios, all done so while creating minimal fuss and getting brands back on track in no time. If you find your brand in a dubious situation that could cost you dearly, give us call before things get out of hand.