Brands behaving badly?


A massive lesson in why being and living your brand is so important.


You must by now have read about Oliva Bland. A 22 year old woman from Manchester who claims she was subject to a ‘brutal’ and ‘humiliating’ two hour interview with the Chief Executive of technology firm Web Applications UK.


She interviewed for a marketing communications assistant role and was later offered the position. She declined it take it, posting her response to the company on twitter. Her tweet got overwhelming levels of support and was shared, commented on and liked tens of thousands of times. Google her and you’ll see her story grabbed the headlines of media across the world.


The CEO Craig Dean apologised on social media. He said that he had no desire to see anyone hurt. He received just 79 likes for his post and has since shut down his twitter account @Unclethargy Presumably because of the swell of negative personal criticism he received.


Naturally, all of this piqued my interest. I headed straight to the Web Applications UK website. 


On the surface, Web Applications UK look like a cool, exciting and forward thinking company. They look like a modern and innovative brand. They express their culture as ‘placing a strong the value of constructive criticism.’ They say they strongly emphasise their people including their personal development, health and well-being. They offer their people a range of perks and benefits in these areas. They have an Investors in People award, and their CEO is the Oldham President of Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce.


All looks and sounds like a great brand to me. But how the brand’s values were expressed during the firm’s recruitment process and the subsequent aftermath were the brand’s acid test.


If Olivia’s tweet is to be believed, she claims she was subject to being asked a lot of personal questions. Her writing was torn apart line by line. She was called an under achiever and was told everything she did wrong at the interview. She claims this left her feeling attacked and intimidated by the CEO’s behaviour. She said it felt like she was sat in a room with her abusive ex. 


Constructive criticism? Demonstrating the well-being of others? Nurturing the aspirations of young people? Olivia’s experience doesn’t seem to match the values that the CEO’s corporate and personal brand purports to deliver.


Their home page now features a rather bland and impersonal statement from the all-male Board of Directors about the incident, in which they claim their internal investigation in response to the allegations made, has concluded that no bullying or intimidation has taken place. They say they take great pride in nurturing the aspirations of young people. But will reflect on their recruitment practices. 


So, what does this teach us?


Your brand is much more than the logo, words and pictures you express. Clever copywriters and talented designers are paid to execute the look and feel of your brand really well.   


Your brand is how you express what you stand for through the experiences you deliver across all of your business processes. It’s how you live the brand every day – from the top floor to the shop floor, in every interaction you have. In other words it’s being the brand from the inside out.


Sadly, for Web Applications UK, this perceived clash between the brand’s corporate values and the CEO’s alleged behaviour in their recruitment process, may now have far reaching consequences for the brand’s reputation for some time to come. One look at their recent Facebook page posts, in which they share news about being shortlisted for a North West Business Masters award, their cool employee benefits and are encouraging women to sign up to their All Female Hack events, has left the public unconvinced. A stream of negative feedback continues.  


The Marketing Communications Assistant job continues to be listed on their website. One of the role’s key requirements states having ‘knowledge of a range of social media channels, and the ability to leverage them effectively’. This is followed by the ‘ability to use initiative’. Seems that Olivia Bland has demonstrated these qualities in abundance. They must be kicking themselves now.


We’re passionate about helping people and organisations build their brands from the inside out. If you’d like our help, contact us


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *