Being 'under the radar' can be dangerous
Updated: Jul 29, 2019
Poor reputation comes in two forms: either people haven’t heard of you or don’t like you. It is easy to feel smug when you are amongst the former and watching the flak taken by those who are more widely hated but beware…
Let us take smoking, for example. Tobacco companies are so widely reviled that the UN currently abides by a worldwide edict not to speak to or share platforms with them. Pretty much everybody knows that cigarettes kill you. Countries continue to restrict access, reduce advertising freedoms and generally make life hard for tobacco sellers. Yet only one country has actually banned tobacco sales (it's Bhutan, if you were wondering). That happened in 2004 and doesn’t seem to have started a trend.
For manufacturers of e-cigarettes, vape and heat-not-burn systems the experience is different: the products do not have an established customer base, cultural norm or history. We know less about them and we don’t know the brands who are selling them. And so, despite organisations such as Public Health England saying that vaping is 95% less harmful than tobacco and “could play a major role in improving public health”, many countries and regions are moving towards bans.
You may be wondering how this relates to your legal business that does not kill people. The lesson is this: regulation is risk averse and politicians are frequently told that they must DO something. If that action impacts your business - directly or indirectly - and your business has no advocates, if no one knows that you exist and do something good in the world, who will defend you? This is just one reason why reputation matters. Building a pool of advocates – consumers, policymakers, journalists – creates a shield against existential risk as well as a commercial tool.