From One Brand To Another

Week to week we commonly see companies in the news whose images are taking a hit (The NFL, Urban Outfitters, etc.) but we rarely hear about the companies who are displaying a positive image. Last week when Chick-fil-A’s founder, S. Truett Cathy, passed away at 93 years old, Moe’s Southwestern Grill posted a touching Facebook post and tweet honoring the inventor of the chicken sandwich.

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The post read “Today we are all Chick-fil-A, Our deepest sympathy for the loss of your founder and our friend, S. Truett Cathy.” These kind words were accompanied by a graphic that combined the two companies’ logos. Thanks to their post, Moe’s has gained a large amount of positive publicity as well as praise from consumers of both Chick-fil-A and Moe’s. This tribute was a simple but genius move on the part of Moe’s. The home of the infamous Joey burrito is now being seen by its target consumers as classy, considerate, and sympathetic. Chick-fil-A even responded to Moe’s, saying “We can’t thank you enough for showing your support as we remember and honor Truett- a friend and so much more to us all.”

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While still in the public’s good graces, Moe’s is coasting right into their highlight event of the year, free queso day. On Thursday, September 18th, Moe’s will be providing free cups of queso and chips to all customers that ask. The company has been advertising the event heavily on their Twitter page, which has been a popular URL thanks to their post addressing Chick-fil-A’s loss of their founder. Whether they intended for the tweet to improve their image or not, their business will definitely reap the benefits of it this Thursday.

united we dip

Moe’s wasn’t the only one tweeting its condolences to Chick-fil-A last week; Zaxby’s, Thrive Farmers, and even country singer Brad Paisley also posted to let Chick-fil-A know that Truett Cathy will be missed. Brad Paisley’s industry is far from the production of food, and Thrive Farmers is Chick-fil-A’s new coffee supply company, but Zaxby’s is one of Chick-fil-A’s main competitors. As witnessed in 2011 with Microsoft when Steve Jobs passed away, the public admires a company who can stop to sympathize with one of its competitors in a time of hardship.

So the question behind all of this friendly tweeting is: What is each company’s true motive? Certainly each of these companies has a trained PR professional running its Twitter account, so chances are they knew that sending their condolences towards Chick-fil-A would be well received by onlookers and the media. But it seems wrong to assume that “image boosting” is the only reason one of those companies might want to make a kind gesture.

A company’s identity is carefully designed and constructed by the company themselves, but their image is defined by the public’s perception of them. Some scholars even say that “It may be difficult to judge whether corporate identity determines corporate image or vice versa.” (Christensen & Askegaard,1999) So what do you think? Is creating a positive image as simple as posting some kind words at the right time and place, or is positive image a byproduct of the delicate maintenance of a company’s self identity?

Christensen, L.T. , & Askegaard, S. (1999). Corporate identity and corporate image revisited: A semiotic perspective. European Journal of Marketing, 35, 292-315.

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2 thoughts on “From One Brand To Another

  1. Forest Gump said “Stupid is as stupid does” so I think he would lean toward action determines identity. You raise a great case and a great question. But be careful of sliding toward a false dichotomy. There is room for a “both” answer to your questions. The tweet can be both genuine and strategic. Genuine in that the executives are not so lost in the competition and corporate agenda that they truly see that there are things more important than quarterly earnings and the loss of a great man is impactful. They can know that when they tweet as a company it is viewed as a corporate message that must be carefully worded. Behavior is both an expression of identity and a contributor to identity. The Moe’s response seems to have been an expression of kindness so it is either genuine or fake. Thus they have both expressed and internally reinforced an identity as either a genuine or fake company. Nice work.

  2. Dr. Olsen,

    As I indulge in my free cup of queso later today, I’m sure I will lean towards the “genuine company/genuine tweet” reality! But for now, you raise a great point that the post could be both benevolent and strategic, and the company’s true nature could be either genuine or fake. Surely whether the post was inspired by compassion or not, the Moe’s PR professional behind the post realized that it was an opportunity to further stabilize the company’s image, as that is what they are trained to do. This case is a great example of how a company’s image must be established and maintained over time, because it isn’t simply determined by one well-worded post or one ill-fortuned event. To accurately analyze Moe’s identity, one must research its history and study its image over a period of time with consistency being the primary identifier. Thanks for commenting!

    -Shawn Rause

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