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Combating Adverse Brand Perception

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By Alicia Hill, Principal, MST Lawyers

From time to time events occur that result in adverse or negative publicity for a brand, company, or individual. In the area that I work, this often results after a protracted piece of litigation where allegations about the conduct of directors, a company or a business suggest poor, inappropriate or outright fraudulent behaviour on the part of one or both of the parties to the litigation.

Following litigation, when the dust is settling, clients ask us how they can regain their brand, image and the good public perception that they had held prior to the event occurring.

The answer to this is that there are short-term band-aid fixes available, such as the launch of new products, new sponsorships or advertising promotions. Introducing new information to push the damaging material from the front page down to column 368 of page 47 (to use a newspaper analogy) or, for the more technologically current, down from the top Google SEO ranking to page 17 of the returned results generated using the standard Google search algorithms.

Alternatively, there are longer term strategies, that may take longer to develop but will ultimately deliver a stronger corporate image. These solutions assist a brand to be better capable of shrugging off isolated incidents (such as fiercely contested litigation) due to the developed goodwill and integrity that the individual, company or business has earned over time.

One of the standard matters we discuss with individuals, companies and organisations relates to how they interact when engaging in business generally. It is important that it is understood that the entirety of their conduct is where the long-term reinstatement of a brand will occur.

The organisations that people want to do business with are those that:

(a) reflect their values;

(b) have a history of generally supporting the community, their staff and the broader business community in general; and

(c) are perceived as not only doing what they do well but having integrity in how they do it.

We see this reflected in the food industry and the development of people’s awareness of healthy and non-healthy food options. For many years those foods which carried the Heart Foundation ‘Tick’ of approval were considered to be healthier and better options than those that did not. Due to the perception that this created in the marketplace, businesses scrambled to meet the requirements of the Heart Foundation so that they could sell their products with the ‘Tick’ on their packaging.

The Victorian Fair Payment Code (Code), is a new initiative introduced by the State Government coming into effect on 1 July 2017.  Businesses may choose to adopt the rules set out in the Code to demonstrate that they are good corporate citizens and strengthen their corporate credibility.  The Code will be administered by the Victorian Small Business Commissioner (VSBC) and requires that signatories adhere to the payment practices and policies listed:

  1. Pay on time
  • Pay small and medium suppliers within 30 days from the date of the receipt of a tax invoice
  • Not change the length of payment on unreasonable grounds
  1. Communicate clearly with suppliers
  • Prepare contracts in clear and simple language
  • Give suppliers clear guidance on payment terms and procedures
  • Promptly advise suppliers if there is any reason why an invoice will not be paid within the agreed terms
  1. Undertake to resolve disputes quickly
  • Inform suppliers of the internal process for handling a payment dispute
  • Participate in alternative dispute resolution including mediation through the VSBC for disputes that cannot be resolved internally
  1. Encourage fair payment practice
  • Encourage suppliers to adopt the Fair Payment Code within their own supply chains
  • Identify your business as a leader in fair payment by using the Fair Payment Code branding

Those interested in knowing more about the Victorian Fair Payment Code can email enquiries@vsbc.vic.gov.au.

For those that can meet the requirements, this initiative may be another avenue for the development of positive and long term credibility and integrity associated with your business, image, company or brand.

If you have queries about this article including steps that can be taken to protect brand, image, trademarks, patents or personal reputations, please contact Alicia Hill, an Accredited Specialist in Commercial Litigation, Nationally Accredited Mediator and graded Arbitrator with the Resolution Institute by email on or phone +61 3 8540 0200.