Don’t be too hard on Volkswagen. They just got the math wrong.

You have got to hand to those clever bastards at Volkswagone .. er, sorry, Volkswagen. They found a way to cheat the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) in the USA about their diesel engine emissions – and nearly got away with it.

United States Environmental Protection Agency EPA LogoInstead, they are staring down the barrel of a multi-billion dollar fine; have already lost close to $30 billion in share equity; and God only knows how much the equity in their brand has suffered.

This is not a new phenomenon in the “win at all costs” mentality of many multinational brands; many of which have virtually no moral compass, electing to care only about wringing out more profit from cutting costs.

Lululemon did it with their shoddy yoga pants and Reebok did it with their lying-through-our-teeth claims about their butt tightening sneakers. No doubt, it won’t be long before another shocking revelation surfaces about bad drugs, dangerous food or misappropriated bonuses.

In each of these situations, the motivation is not in question – cut corners and make more money. What is in question is the basic arithmetic.

WSR VW LogoWho did the cost/benefit analysis of these breathtaking conspiracies to lie and cheat? In VW’s case, did anyone pull out a pocket calculator and run some basic numbers? Just how much would it have cost for them to simply make a cleaner engine? Thirty billion dollars? Not bloody likely.

But somebody, somewhere made the call and lots of other loyal and shortsighted muppets towed the line. Now, they all have to deal with the long-term repair costs that will keep their brand up on the hoist for years.

Geezus … how much can a good calculator cost these days?


Wayne S. Roberts

The Globe and Mail calls Wayne S. Roberts "an ad industry provocateur." Maybe its because he's never seen the point of playing by the ad game rules that place awards above results, while offering spec work instead of real value to win accounts. Throughout his career, Wayne has maintained a defiantly independent streak characterized by his insistence that agencies must be honest, direct and passionately invested in their clients' success. His pioneering work in espousing the brand community perspective has been a touchstone of his belief that branding is more than just logos, websites and ad campaigns; it is the fundamental way human beings connect with each other to create communities and launch movements that have changed our world.

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