The Redskins: Proof Brand Perception Can Merit Change
June 26, 2014
June 26, 2014
There are numerous factors to consider in judging the quality of a brand, of which monetary worth is only one. But when the brand’s estimated value is in the ballpark of $1.7 billion, it’s probably a safe bet to say it’s a good one. Probably – not always.
As we’re witnessing now with the case of the Washington Redskins, there is more than just worth to consider; there’s also public opinion.
Despite numerous pleas, newspaper bans and a high-profile television commercial, the Redskins and owner Daniel Snyder have no plans to change the team’s name. The latest tactic to drive change, the cancelling of the Redskins trademark, might be the beginning of the end.
Why, though, has it taken such moves to pressure the Redskins? As one would imagine, there’s a large attachment to the name and its related imagery from management and fans.
In an October 2013 letter to fans, Snyder balked at the notion of a name change. Referencing the tradition and legacy of the Redskins name, he refused to concede that there are any racist connotations at play. Setting aside the “how it’s always been” defense, this isn’t a smart move by Snyder.
The Redskins brand is incredibly valuable, but standing pat on the team’s name runs the risk of jeopardizing that value. Having a government agency rule the name racist brings a new development; it gives legitimate proof to Snyder’s detractors.
What’s the next domino to fall? Are sponsors next to back away from the Redskins over the team’s name? Do people choose to pledge their allegiances, attention and dollars elsewhere? Is that worth it to Snyder?
He can make this name situation a matter of pride, but a loss of revenue degrades the quality of the product he’s able to put out there.
The lesson to be learned from this situation is to not be married to an identity. Something that works now might not in 30 years and you need to adapt with the times. This case is a bit extreme – names likely aren’t going to become more offensive over time – but the reaction is hardly exceptional.
Alienating customers, losing money – these are problems any organization would like to avoid. A willingness to embrace change and move away from “tradition” may help.