Caitlyn Jenner debut introduces unique brand image crisis
Caitlyn Jenner became the topic of the moment as soon as she made her debut on the cover of Vanity Fair. Yet while the online community buzzed about the news, one group remained noticeably silent on the matter: brands.
This silence failed to go unnoticed, as news sources like PR Daily called companies and brands out on their reluctance to discuss the big transformation. It is a silence that seemed all the stranger considering many brands’ efforts to openly tout their support of Pride Month.
So if brands are clearly showing their support for the LGBT community, why are they refusing to contribute to the conversation about Caitlyn Jenner?
The popular assumption appears to be that brands have chosen to remain silent about Caitlyn Jenner’s introduction to the world due to the sensitivity of the topic. As people gravitate towards one of two extreme ends of the spectrum regarding Jenner’s decision — total support or complete aversion — it becomes difficult to find a position that will not garner severe criticism one way or the other.
However, silence introduces a unique dilemma. By refusing to comment on the news in an effort to avoid a “foot-in-mouth” moment, brands have ironically set themselves up for criticism in another form. Rather than facing backlash from taking a controversial position, brands are actually facing criticism for having taken no noticeable position at all. This highlights just how difficult it can be to shape brand image — even by exercising the utmost prudence and foresight — when public response consistently remains an unpredictable variable.
Brands constantly make statements and take controversial positions that ultimately help define brand identity and values. However, it is still necessary to exercise prudence when making decisions that may have serious implications. That prudence may include assessing the potential risks against potential benefits.
How do you think brands’ silence following Caitlin Jenner’s debut reflects on these brands, if at all? Share your thoughts below or tweet me @tamarahoumi.