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A brand's potential power to influence is undeniable: From Virgin to Nike and Lady Gaga, high-profile lifestyle brands have significantly affected our modern culture. But what happens when a brand goes too far... and ends up being its own worst enemy?

In 2011, many of us read about the death of Jackass star Ryan Dunn, who died in an alcohol-related car crash. You may have also seen (or at least heard of) the documentary Steve-O: Demise and Rise, which followed another member of the Jackass brand as his life spun out of control with drugs and alcohol. Though those stories are certainly tragic, the real tragedy is that they, unfortunately, perpetuate the lifestyle promoted by the Jackass brand.

Now, your branding dilemmas will probably never approach the gravity of the one that faced the Jackass folks. But regardless of industry, such branding dilemmas bring up the question, At what point does the marketing engine take a good, hard look at the tradeoff between brand-building and destruction? Though that seems to be an ongoing dilemma for producers of reality TV, brands in any industry can be battered.

Ask companies such as British Petroleum (BP), Bank of America, Enron, and others that have been through a firestorm of crisis and criticism... what they would do differently in response to a brand catastrophe. The answers would likely all boil down to a few simple, common-sense steps.

Whether a brand is facing a minor kerfuffle or a major tragedy, the path of correction should be simple and clear.

1. Step back, and think about your customers

As a marketer, you already know who your customers are and what they think. Now consider how your situation may be affecting them and what kind of resolution you know they'll expect from you. Establish an appropriate remedy immediately, and tell customers about it. Now is the time to really put your customers first—even though your gut instincts might tell you to focus elsewhere.

2. Own it

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Anita Williams Weinberg is an online content strategist, social marketer, and copywriter. Her company, Poppermost Communications, specializes in case studies, social media content, and strategic Web copy for the technology industry.