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Building brand loyalty in good times pays off in the bad

Every brand in the world faces the fact that accidents happen and things can go wrong.

Ironically, it is at this point, when it has gone wrong, that brand loyalty is at its most valuable.

The track record which has been built over time, and the things that have been well done previously all kick in to make a "disaster" situation manageable and certainly survivable.

This is especially true in the business-to-business category.

The relationship here tends to be much more active and on-going than with consumers. However, nothing should be taken for granted and a few basic marketing rules apply.

Firstly, preparation. Plans should be already in place for the "what if" scenario. In PR teams there should be a crisis strategy in place ready to roll out in the event of an accident.

Secondly, operationally the organisation should be prepared to identify any crisis as a priority and have a system for responding at all levels.

And crucially, communication. The business needs to control the information release process and to be seen to lead it forward. A proper plan can control the agenda and the output but it needs to be prepared in advance. PR, advertising, media interviews and comment are all crucial to limiting the damage. All of these tools need to be employed on a pre-planned basis.

But damage can be limited, recovery can be made and it's at this crisis point that brands can reap the reward of the brand-building and customer relationship investment that has been previously carried out.

It's not the end of the world, provided the preparation has been made and customers, businesses and consumers all have some brand loyalty which they won't just throw away.