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Establish your 5A Brand Guardians… before a mess-up

How does a brand recover from shock? What constitutes brand resilience? Business leaders need to be proactive instead of prescriptive.

A brand is a sum total of the zoe (in the Greek, the life) of a business. It manifests its presence in visibility vectors like the logo, namecard, website, posters, etc. but they are not the brand. There is nothing spiritual or religious about the way we frame what a brand is about. But it is everything that the business is represented in.

Does McDonald’s make the best hamburgers in the world? Clearly not. Then what is it that makes people go back to them over and over again?

It is the brand and all that the brand stands for. When McDonald’s started out with its brand campaign, it set out to “own” the family unit as a customer. This meant that its products and services would have to attract the basic unit of society (family) to partake of whatever it was setting out to offer.

It was from this fundamental logic that the brand then began building its marketing campaigns around. The Happy Meals with packaged toys or books, the hotcakes and morning coffee all express a single brand message – come as a family. When we put it all in “religious” terms, McDonald’s now becomes the church of food and the family unit, its congregants that religiously attend its services. To achieve its targets, all McDonald’s needs is for families to dine in at one of its restaurants at least once a week. In short, take me to church (@McDs).

There was a PR nightmare that took place with McDonald’s in that someone videoed its fries and hamburger over a 30-day period and found out that no mold grew on it. In a contrast video, that same individual videoed a piece of bread and within a matter of days of being left to the elements, had mold growing on it by day 3 and by day 30, a disgusting swamp was all that remained.

So how does a brand guard its image, especially when a business messes up? Well, these 5As© are the brand guardians who need to be attended to.

1. Advocate

This refers to the ambassadors of your brand. They can be individuals or businesses and are organically inspired. They treat themselves like owners of your brand do their utmost best to defend it. When your brand messes up, the advocates will step in to provide some lift. And you can count on them to do so.


Build a following. Feed and reinforce brand values. Reward advocates to buttress loyalty.

2. Augment

Evidence and how it should be amplified to show progress in change. When your brand messes up, people want to know that you have taken great consideration into making amends and changes. There will be detractors, fear-mongerers, skeptics.


Establish proper channels and continually communicate progress. Your duty as a brand gatekeeper or business leader is to establish a rhythm of filtering through the nuances and deciding on what perceptions to deal with. Use technology to triangulate and inform your decisions in this regard.

3. Authenticity

Who are you, really? No one wants a copy of someone else, nor a fake.


Retrace your roots. Dig deep. Uncover hindrances to authenticity.

4. Altruism

Selfless nature, showing of concern for others. This is especially important when a mess-up impacts lives at a significant level.


Engage in CSR efforts early. If your business is not at the level of giving away sums of money, take the time to invest in altruistic sweat equity – be physically present for a personal touch – it goes a long way.

5. Alter-ego

This is the Jekyll and Hyde scenario which unfortunately, may be necessary for some brands, especially if their authentic side diminishes instead of augments its brand image. If the brand lacks key brand subsets of transparency, honesty, humility, the business has to empower its crisis team to fill the gap and take steps to bring healing to the recovery process if the brand messes up.


Be deliberate in dealing with transparency, honesty and humility, especially if they are not already part of your corporate brand values. Remember, be proactive instead of prescriptive.


Reach out to our Brand Strategy Consultant to schedule a consultation if you need advice in this area.


© All Rights Reserved, SYL+JAS 2021. The 5A Brand Guardian Framework is intellectual property of SYL+JAS. Please seek for permission for use.


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