There is much debate about whether News Corp will or won't survive the current crisis. But I believe the bigger question should be: What can and should other successful companies learn from all of this?
In the past, a brand and the corporation, which stood behind that brand, could act in very different ways. The external and internal values of companies were frequently misaligned. The implosion of Enron and Tyco were graphic illustrations of what happens when the firewall between these behaviors disappears.
In addition, the most successful brands today recognize that they are more than just brands: they are cultural icons. Apple had this figured out a long time ago, and its brand loyalty ratings and market cap prove the point. Apple and companies like Virgin and Nike have a strong sense of authenticity at their core.
Also, it's not just economic capital these days that is driving companies and brands. The Triple Bottom Line - in other words, not just a company's financial performance, but how it scores ecologically and socially too - means that a brand's fans will focus on aspects like whether the company behind the brand is following fair trade and employment practices, not just if they find the brand cool or not.
Companies today are being held to a much more rigorous set of values by their constituents. The internet means that you can run, but you can't hide. The age of information is the age of connection. A teenager sitting in his dorm room in LA can make a decision about whether or not he feels good about spending $150 on a pair of sneakers - when he knows the factory worker gets paid a tiny fraction of that - based on whether that worker is being treated fairly by the manufacturer. There is a 'visible value chain': the corporate reputation and the brand image have to be consistent.
I love how Philippe Starck - another iconic brand in his own right - has this philosophy on product design: "You can say 'It doesn't matter, the product's crap, but the consumers will make do with it." But it's much harder to say: "'It's crap but it doesn't matter, my daughter will make do with it'. All of a sudden you can't get away with it any more. You are held to a different set of standards".
In short, corporate reputation is converging with brand image in a connected global culture. The behavior and ethics of the company behind the brand are as important as the brand itself.
I wonder if this thinking would perhaps have helped News Corp avoid its current difficulties.
Mike Amour is the Regional CEO for Project Worldwide, an umbrella organization for some of the leading agencies in the experiential, digital and content arenas. He’s a 20-year agency veteran, and was previously Chairman and CEO for Grey Global Group Asia Pacific.