Brand reputations: Do consumers really care?

We’re supposed to believe that consumers really care about brand values, but something is amiss with this theory.  Take, for example, Amazon.com.  They treat their warehouse workers so badly that some of them have to carry bottles to urinate in because they can’t take breaks.  Facebook continues to give users the middle finger as they hoard personal data and monetize it yet users are not quitting the site.  Why?

Social media has allowed people to become online activists without breaking a sweat.  You can voice your concern over an issue or brand without actually really doing something.  It’s the passive aggressive approach that Millennials love because you don’t have to physically do anything except type some words.

Millennials are supposed to the generation that holds brands accountable, but that’s not always true for some big name brands like Apple, Amazon and Facebook.  These are brands that are secretive about how much data they have on us yet Millennials are more than willing to put these brands on a pedestal.

A Starbuck’s manager calls the police on two black men sitting in a Philadelphia store and social media goes crazy enough that Starbucks is making the stupid move of closing all its stores for training.  Millennials hate soda, but somehow Coke’s new design and flavors have brought them back to the brand?

So back to the question of this post.  Do consumers care?  The answer is yes, in some cases, but no, in a lot of others.  Brands with deep brand equity and desired by customers are allowed to screw up.  Amazon has decimated Whole Foods yet people are still shopping there and there are still lines at Starbucks drive thru’s in the morning.

Yes, brands have to be aware of their social status among their audience, but a lot of brands are allowed to screw up if they provide a product that people love.  Sure, Amazon can mistreat their warehouse employees, but I still need my Amazon Prime.  It’s OK Facebook, take all my data as long as I can get my social media fix on your site.

Brands are in business to make money.  Anything that interferes with that is cause for alarm, but brands also have to understand that consumers have a lot more to care about than irresponsible brands.