So, here are a couple of X-Men concepts that just might save brands from themselves:
Truthanasia—this character is able to instantly determine the truth of any situation and state it plainly so that all involved see reality. Claims and counterclaims go away under her steady gaze. This is very similar to the power that many mothers possess to divine the truth from their children. But Truthanasia can see through the most complicated situations, like, for instance, if you’re a news network and your most profitable host is accused of multiple instances of sexual harassment. Truthanasia enters the fray and all is brought to light in a matter of seconds.
Preventorg—specializes in second chances. Just before a brand does something it will regret later, Preventorg swoops in and says hold on, you need to think about this again. This character has 20/20 foresight and can see unfortunate consequences before they happen. Let’s say you want to make a TV commercial that looks at this country’s current social unrest with a warm heart, a cute model with a famous last name, and all is made happy again with the offer of a soft drink. Preventorg might suggest that the commercial is insensitive and exploitive and nothing like the classic Coke commercial it wishes to emulate.
United Airlines could have used either Truthanasia or Preventorg to avoid one of the worst PR disasters in recent years. Imagine if Preventorg had been there that day to ask, “Are you sure you want to treat a fully-paid, seated passenger like a trespassing criminal?” Or maybe even before that, Preventorg might have asked if removing passengers from a plane because of your own problems shuffling flight personnel was really a good policy. Truthanasia could have helped the CEO of United get all the facts before supporting the questionable actions of his employees and further adding to the perception of disdain for law-abiding passengers.
Of course, brands can’t turn to these imaginary X-Men to save them from their mistakes. And they must deal with the very real and ever more powerful force of social media, which can deliver overwhelming backlash within minutes of an event. CEOs, executives, brand mangers and PR people all have to be prepared to get as many facts as possible as fast as they can before making public statements.
Having experienced these preventable mistakes, brands like Pepsi and United will now be looking at how they could have prevented them in the first place. Will they learn their lessons? Hard to tell, but borrowing inspiration from imaginary X-Men just might help them in the future.