The spectre that haunts online accounts has given Sony a nasty experience, but to what extent might it turn into brand damage? Sony is by no means the first to be attacked and certainly will not be the last, but the extent to which the brand’s reputation will suffer seems to depend upon how much the vulnerability is a reflection of the brand’s core values and competencies. This is a common dimension to brand damage: for example, we expect government departments to take care of our data, because in many cases we have no choice but to allow them to keep it, so when they don’t apply adequate safeguards we are right to be appalled. However, we have no choice – we cannot take our business elsewhere.
When we move into the private sector however, the potential for brand damage is manifest. Banks, for example, we expect to take protection of our data very seriously. Looking after details (and by inference, the security of our money) is at the core of our expectations and the values of the sector. It is a critical success factor. So, even if the bank is the innocent victim of a hack attack, we are unlikely to be sympathetic and our view of the brand will diminish. Part of our expectations of a bank brand is that it will be ‘safe’ if it is not, we are free to walk.
When we look at a brand such as Sony, however, whose core values are related to entertainment, we are likely to be more sympathetic. Of course we expect any organisation to look after our data, but the brand values we look to are those of enjoyment, innovation, technology etc. For brand-loyal customers whose expectations lie in those areas, the brand damage may be unfortunate, but limited. For potential customers, the brand may carry a blemish for a while, but perhaps not for long if they concentrate on their core values and deliver technologically advanced entertainment.