The aura of fear prevailing in organizations due to the indirect bullying of employees saps productivity and can be counterproductive to the organization. Brand managers temporarily forget about building brand equity and focus on driving sales. They vie to create more and more audacious sales promotion schemes to drive customers to buy the brand.
While this may have a direct impact on brand equity there are several other aspects that can impact brand equity indirectly. Employees seeking leverage bully vendors for lower costs and arm twist better deals. People down the line are squeezed in order to display greater productivity and lower costs. Salespeople make false commitments to customers to hit their targets and leave customer care to clean up behind them. No one above them objects too strongly as everyone is aware that all is fair when target achievement determines the group’s survival.
Vendors find that they are not getting the same respect that they enjoyed earlier and the relationship is uni-dimensional focusing only on the lowest costs. Employees pass on some of what they are getting by bullying vendors and associates and constantly reminding them that relationships are not permanent.
Customers are also savvy to using bullying to get better deals. Especially with service brands, consumers wangle for every free benefit possible knowing that in a recession everyone wants business and even if the brand does not specifically need this sale the salesperson needs it.
It’s quite a grim loveless situation! Brands are taking quite a beating in the process, and they pay long after the recession ends for public memory is long when it comes to remembering negatives.
Remember brands are not only about marketing. Organizations are brands and need to attract and retain high quality people. When market conditions improve and other companies start hiring, these brands may find that their employees are leaving them because of the bad treatment they received during the recession. Things may get worse if these brands develop a reputation for being unpleasant to employees and struggle to get good quality people.
Vendors and associates too may reduce their dependence on these brands as they have no loyalty toward them. Expertise and confidentiality may be lost if critical vendors and associates switch allegiance.
Brands may also lose equity with customers who find that the brand is no longer bending backward to offer freebies. Some customers may carry the annoyance of having succumbed to high-pressure sales tactics while others may be resentful toward of having bought on the basis of false commitments. All these misdeeds could come back to haunt the brand in the form of bad word of mouth and consequently reduced preference.
Brand owners that allow a bullying culture to set in during tough times can expect a backlash at some point in time. Brands that show graciousness when faced with adversity earn their constituents’ appreciation. The best way to tackle a bully is standing firm. The best way to stand up to the temptation of winning through bullying others is realizing that it’s a short cut to failure.