Discussing the Sun’s current troubles, a colleague started talking about the ‘brand damage’. This made me ponder how this media turmoil might affect or ‘damage’ the Sun’s brand. I suspect the answer is, ‘Not a lot.’
The Sun’s brand values have always inhabited a shadowy area on the borders of being a ‘bad boy’ brand. I feel sure that its readership enjoy its irreverent attitude and thick-skinned stance. I also suspect that the same readership was not so shocked as the rest of the media community pretended to be at the ‘surprising’ revelations of celebrity phone hacking or even alleged payment to police officers and others for tip-offs. Many probably assumed it was part and parcel of how tabloids operated and only subsequently questioned its morality.
Part of the publications brand values lie in investigation and revelation. What would the Sun be without revelation? Interestingly, if it were not at the eye of this particular storm, it is precisely the kind of story it would revel in tackling. Unfortunately that has had to be left to other publications, one assumes without a hint of Schadenfreude.
So, to what extent is the brand likely to be damaged? In the eyes of the non-Sun-reading public, there is probably little more than reinforcement of all the poor opinions they already held. Amongst its peers, I would guess there may be a touch of ‘There but for the grace of God…’ but as Britain’s biggest selling daily, from a business viewpoint the brand is probably still envied. And to the most important stakeholders in the brand, the readers, I doubt there will be any lasting damage so long as the red-top keeps delivering what they enjoy.
In the same vein, I feel News International was rather precipitate in closing the News of the World. Of course practices were flawed and staff and management behaved odiously, but it was hardly like a bishop being disgraced. It’s more like finding that a scrap dealer occasionally forgot to ask suppliers where the lead came from.