Is it right for brands to apologise for their previous performance?

The Evening Standard has run a series of ads apologising to Londoners for its performance under its previous owner in the hope of encouraging former readers to reappraise the relaunched paper


Cameron Saunders, marketing director, Twentieth Century Fox Film Company

It takes guts to apologise, and to apologise so comprehensively and publicly is a real statement of intent.

Clearly the Evening Standard's campaign is the start of a conversation with Londoners, a bold attempt to drive reappraisal of a brand in freefall. It also feels like the end of a major internal debate at the paper: 'We got it wrong, and things are going to change around here.' It's a real gamble and risks insulting core readers who feel it has nothing to apologise for, but without radical change, the only guarantee is a continued slide into oblivion.

Should brands apologise? Absolutely, but only if they mean it and are doing something about it.

I do feel the Standard's new owners are genuinely distancing themselves from the past, and are sincere in their desire for change. But didn't they begin to really 'lose touch' when they continued to charge for their paper in the face of the evening freesheets? It's right to apologise unreservedly for mistakes, but in the Standard's case, is it apologising for the right mistake, or
is it just apologetic marketing?


Stephen Woodford, chief executive, DDB London

The Evening Standard is part of the rich tapestry of London life. However, it is no longer UK-owned - Russian oligarch Alexander Lebedev now holds the reins and clearly, perhaps bravely, he wants to make a break with the past.

Saying 'sorry' has a cultural signifi-cance for us Brits. The campaign has tapped into the fact we respect insti-tutions that apologise when they are wrong, but can we respect an insti-tution that apologises unnecessarily?  

Apologising makes a latent issue prominent and, for me, creates no advantage for the paper. I read the Evening Standard and do not share the new regime's low opinion of the newspaper's previous editorial. To me, it is an authority for breaking London and national news, and as a loyal reader I feel insulted.

Could this be Lebedev's 'Gerald Ratner moment', or the courageous new dawn for a great London institution? My vote is for the former.


Rufus Radcliffe, head of network marketing, Channel 4

Apologising is risky, particularly when the mistake isn't obvious. The Evening Standard didn't lose people's luggage or use salmonella-riddled eggs to make chocolate. Its editorial stance wasn't a mistake: it was deliberate, and repeated every day. The negative editorial, the relentless bad news, the obsession with house prices - it might have been wrong, but it was intentional.

Is it apologising because it philo-sophically regrets its stance or because it didn't work? Brands should apologise only if they mean it, and won't repeat the mistake. If it is a neat marketing angle - an excuse to get attention - it won't work. London is full of sceptics. The immediate response will be: 'Is it a publicity stunt?'

Apologising puts brands under extraordinary pressure. The Standard will be scrutinised like never before. If the paper does not deliver, the response will be 'You haven't changed at all.'
Apologising reminds Londoners why they won't pay 50p, but risks sometimes pay off, and clearly something had to be done to create genuine reappraisal. Let's see if it rises to the challenge.


Marc Sands, director of marketing, Guardian News & Media

Of course there are circumstances where brands should apologise for their previous performances. Where brands have lied, misled or got some-thing factually wrong, they should apologise. They do not necessarily have to apologise for an opinion or a point of view unless facts emerge later that prove their view was factually wrong.

We read everywhere that people have a genuine relationship with brands. A genuine relationship also includes the occasional appropriate apology.

Why brand owners, politicians and others find it so hard to apologise is incomprehensible to me. Some humanity and a little humility never did anyone any harm.

It is rarely possible to move on unless a line in the sand can be drawn. At that point, the relationship between brand and customer can resume. Until then,

it will always be somewhat tempered. You had better make sure you mean it, though. If the apology is honest, the relationship will only be enhanced.


Before commenting please read our rules for commenting on articles.

If you see a comment you find offensive, you can flag it as inappropriate. In the top right-hand corner of an individual comment, you will see 'flag as inappropriate'. Clicking this prompts us to review the comment. For further information see our rules for commenting on articles.

comments powered by Disqus
Brand Republic Jobs

subscribe now


Oasis #springasmile digital campaign gets people doing good deeds
Coca-Cola: 'Don't approach bloggers with a fait accompli'
Tesco CMO Matt Atkinson: 'It is so important not to stereotype mothers'
McDonald's gives Ronald a new look ahead of global 'Fun times' social media push
In pictures: BrewDog opens first craft beer shop BottleDog for 'beer aficionados'
Facebook ad revenue leaps $1bn as it invests in targeting
Malteser or Maltesers? Mars takes Hershey trademark dispute to court
Apple Q2 profits top $10bn as iPhone sales soar
Lynx tells men not to leave love to fate
HBO captures awkwardness of watching sex scenes with parents
Primark to open first US stores with Boston chosen as flagship location
Marketing spend on the up but a reality check is needed before celebrating
Top 10 ads of the week: Jackpotjoy and BT Broadband fend off Kevin Bacon
Lidl beats Tesco to 10m Facebook fans
Center Parcs ad banned for encouraging parents to take kids out of school
Coca-Cola, Cadbury and Amazon named top brands for targeting youth market
Leaked document shows Nokia to be rebranded as Microsoft Mobile
Nike lays-off hardware staff in move that casts doubt on future of FuelBand
Greenpeace says save the bees or humans will die
What brands need to know about changes to VAT and online downloads in 2015
Jimmy Savile victims urged to claim compensation in new ad campaign
UKIP launches biggest  ad campaign and stirs up 'racist' accusations
Apple boss Tim Cook provides voiceover on ad touting firm's renewed green commitments
John Lewis walks consumers through its history to celebrate 150 years of business
Waitrose boosts content strategy with 'Weekend Kitchen with Waitrose' C4 tie-up
Hottest virals: Cute puppies star in Pedigree ad, plus Idris Elba and Fruyo
Amnesty International burns candles to illuminate new hope
Tom of Finland's 'homoerotic' drawings made into stamps
Toyota achieves the impossible by calming angry Roman drivers
YouTube reveals user habits to appeal to 'older' marketers