Humility: A New Brand Attribute?


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Last Friday, Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda apologized. To everyone. And he did it again on Tuesday, in the Washington Post. And again and again in a subtler way on national TV, with the currently ubiquitous “commitment” TV commercial.

There’s something refreshing about a (seemingly) heartfelt apology for mistakes made. “We screwed up,” he’s saying, “and we know it.” What’s not said but implied is obvious to parents (and consumers) worldwide: we’ve learned our lesson. Let’s fix it and move on. Maybe the ad’s a little sappy, but hey – it does a great job reminding viewers why Toyota is (still) the number one car company in the world. It’s actually heartening to see a grown-up stand up and take the heat.

After all, when’s the last time any of us saw a politician apologize with something other than crocodile tears of self-pity and shame, almost universally brought on as the result of stunning self-absorption, monumental lapses in judgment and a total lack of humility?

Perhaps it’s because humility isn’t a great brand attribute for U.S. based companies. Michael Useem, professor of management at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania was quoted recently in The New York Times saying, “American culture does not put a premium on apology.”

Maybe not. But when it comes to driving brand loyalty, I’m much more likely to open my wallet for someone who actually seems to care. Good luck, Akio. Yeah, you screwed up. But I, for one, accept your apology. Just don’t do it again…

Republished with author's permission from original post.


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