Google “biggest brand disasters of the last decade” and the results are not all that surprising since when a company decides to ignore the potential reputational impact of its actions, everyone ultimately finds out about it. Nonetheless, recalling these well-known corporate “fails” is a good reminder about the unthinkable versus the possible. Here’s who World Finance identified as “leaders” in brand disasters:
BP – The spill in the Gulf was bad but BP, especially the CEO, was able to set fire (no pun intended) to the company and its brand, too.
Volkswagen – Apparently, the leadership at this automaker thought themselves too clever to be caught. Now, the company brand stands for lying and cheating.
Sea World – This one is a bit trickier. A “documentary” aired by CNN implied that the organization practiced animal cruelty. Instead of countering with an invitation for all to come and look for themselves, Sea World made it into a “he said, she said” and lost.
Target – When your computer systems are breached, resulting in the exposure of sensitive information on about 110 million of your cardholders, responding weeks later with poor customer service to those cardholders will get your CEO and CTO fired (and it did).
Ryanair – “We don’t want to hear your sob stories. What part of ‘no refund’ don’t you understand?” For CEO O’Leary, these types of comments are common. It seems there is such thing as bad publicity. It followed a very poor 2013 by being selected as the worst brand in the world in 2014.
Abercrombie & Fitch – Voted the “Most Hated Brand In America” in 2016, this company thought creating racist tees and practicing discriminatory hiring practices (against anyone who wasn’t “attractive”) would improve its image somehow. Huh?
Though incidents of this type do not occur in such a predictable fashion, if you divided the first five into the decade in question, you would see that even the largest global brands are likely to step on their own toes every couple of years. This frequency seems high given how many millions (and billions) of Euros, GBPs and USDs these organizations invest in protecting the value of their brands. If 2017 is any indication, then frequency of these debacles maybe accelerating. Already this year, these companies have managed to cost themselves and their shareholders hundreds of millions in market capitalization. Here is a list compiled by the financial services PR firm, William Mills Agency:
United – After dragging a bloodied and screaming passenger off an aircraft for refusing to give up his seat, an event captured on video, the airline’s CEO’s public comments basically blamed the passenger. Litigation and brand damage are $250 million and counting.
Uber – Too much here to summarize. To date, this company has had a dozen separate incidents of bad PR ranging from accusations of sexism to a video of the then-CEO abusing an Uber driver.
Wells Fargo – Bank employees created two million fake accounts to help in meeting their bonus goals. The CEO fired all of them and then, initially, refused to give back the bonus he had been given based on last year’s financial results.
Why all this in a blog carrying the brand of a company that builds testing solutions and platforms for companies in the financial services industry? Because, testing continues to not be a subject FinServ senior management considers to be important. Why? This is not exactly clear.
Perhaps it is because they don’t understand how the pace of technology changes over the last few years is putting their payment systems at risk, especially given the fact that their testing teams are most likely using dated testing tools. These testing tools limit the amount of code that can be tested in an environment where the total amount of code in payment systems continues to grow. In addition, these tools are not efficient in terms of their overall cost to own and they limit the productivity of testers.
Already this year, there is evidence of how the systems that power financial services are vulnerable to these conditions. Chase, First Citizens, NatWest, Lloyds, Halifax and a number of banks in Texas have seen system failures. Each time customers cannot do what they want to do when they use the payment products and services offered by their card issuer or an ATM, brand value is eroded. This is also true if they have a poor user experience, cannot use the latest features they want to or read a bad review from a credible source by someone who has had experiences such as this.
Testing is important right down to the bottom line and the price of stock for a FinServ company. Those who take testing seriously will upgrade their testing solutions and platforms. Those that don’t will be on somebody’s list somewhere before they know what hit them.