Branding_of_Buddha.jpgWhile in Thailand recently for my honeymoon, between coconut drinks and curry dishes, I couldn’t help but notice the prevalent image of the Buddha, most notably on the bodies of western tourists and on the shelves of the cheap gift shops lining the streets. Tattoos, statues, t-shirts — Buddha was everywhere! And, it’s not just for the vacationing crowd. Think about the last time you saw an ad for a yoga studio or scanned the aisles of your local health food store. Chances are the Buddha is around there somewhere, too.

Seen as a “cool,” marketable, and consumable icon that’s easily gobbled up by the trendy bohemian crowd, this purely philosophical and non-religious phenomenon of taking a sacred image in vain is certainly not something that actual true-blue Buddhist followers are pleased with. And why should they be?

Though the Buddha is not a “brand,” per se, it got me thinking about how and why we got here. There are many examples of brands falling into the wrong hands over the last several years. I distinctly remember a while back that Adidas was in some hot water when their Superstar sneaker went from becoming an athletic fashion symbol to becoming the the shoe of choice for Central American gang members.

How do we stop our own brands from being adopted by the wrong audience and changing their meaning altogether? Here are some tips.

Police your brand.

Sign up for google alerts for your brand and your competitors. This way you’ll know immediately when your brand makes it into the news or is being spoken about on blogs. Or, consider putting a tool like Mention to use, as you can monitor not just the web, but all of social media, in up to 42 different languages and even export your data.

Know your legal limits.

Sometimes it’s necessary to take the policing of your brand a step further and pursue legal action. This is the case when someone is using your logo or marks without your authorization. The first step is obviously to consult with your legal team who may direct you to send a “Cease and Desist” letter to the offending party.

Always be prepared for a PR crisis.

As Adidas will tell you, sometimes your brand becoming popular with the “wrong” crowd can spell trouble for your PR team. It’s always wise to be prepared for a PR crisis before it starts. This means ensuring that your public-facing employees have basic messaging in place that can be quickly adjusted to meet the needs of the current situation — like assuring your target market that you’re aware of the situation and reminding them of your brand’s core values. Be sure to also empower your social media team to act swiftly to handle communications online when necessary.

Engage your audience.

The best way to keep your brand from getting into the “wrong” hands, is of course, keeping it in the right hands. Have a handle on your target audience, know the forums and social platforms that they frequent, and make it a point to keep them engaged. This could mean actively participating in discussions, creating and sharing exclusive content such as ebooks and blog posts that solve a problem or answer a question, and by continually updating to keep that content fresh and interesting.

Tap into your influencers.

Make it a point to build relationships with influential thought leaders in your industry. These are the people that will help to get your brand message to the masses and help it to stick, as it will be coming from a trusted source. Look for influencers with wide networks, but also fully aligned with your target audience. The best influencers are those with a proven track record of spurring their followers to action. Good luck!


How do you protect your brand? Let us know in the comments below!


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