Legal victories may be bad for brands

JusticeWhen your brand wins a legal battle it may be good for the company but can damage brand values and engagement.

Apple have been smugly congratulating themselves after their court victory over Samsung. We can all understand – when your success is built around product innovation, protecting your intellectual property must be at the front of your corporate mind. But perversely, the public may not share in the jubilation.

Legal confrontations are not particularly edifying. Especially if you are a powerful, brand leader, there is always a reaction to feel sympathy for the underdog. I’m sure many of us remember the reputation Microsoft earned by their eagerness to rush to litigation.

Nobody likes to see dirty washing done in public. Facebook’s internal conflicts did little to endear the management to its public. All of these actions reflect upon the brand values and can be internally damaging.

The discourse within organizations that are involved in litigious processes is indicative of lawyers’ confrontational culture. The metaphors are about battles, about fighting, winning, victories and defeats. The dialogues are adopted throughout the organization. Staff understand who the ‘enemy’ is. The brand ambassadors begin to use the discourse of street-fighters. The ‘battles’ become part of the brand narrative and define its values.

Of course we must protect our IPR and be prepared to stand up for our brand. But it is also important from a brand leadership standpoint that we don’t allow the corrosive and hostile attitude to damage our values.

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