Researchers measure the effects of mass employee layoffs on a brand

By our News Team | 2023

A company’s marketing department should be involved in planning potentially damaging actions, such as layoffs, from the very beginning.

In times of economic crisis, companies frequently lay off employees. In the short term this can reduce costs, but what consequences does this have for an organisation’s brand?


A new study by researchers from three European universities – Kühne Logistics University (KLU) in Germany, Tilburg University in the Netherlands, and KU Leuven in Belgium – has investigated the phenomenon and provides recommendations on how communications strategies should be planned.

Corporate Communication

Photo by Antoni Shkraba from Pexels

The results show that after layoffs are announced, brand strength drops by an average of 18%. It only recovers after about seven weeks. 


“This negative effect is strongly influenced by the corporate communications that take place in parallel,” says Alexander Himme, an Associate Professor at KLU. He warns that advertising and social media amplify the negative effect.


“If, on the other hand, companies send out many PR and CSR messages in parallel with the layoff, this average damage to the brand can be significantly contained,” Himme explains. 


An above-average positive brand image also proved to be a helpful buffer against brand damage caused by the announcement of mass layoffs.


Consumers differentiate between advertising and PR


How do PR or CSR measures differ from marketing measures? The researchers’ study shows that consumers rate marketing and social media activities as more entertaining, less trustworthy and, above all, cost-intensive.


“This is then perceived very negatively in the case of layoff announcements,” says Himme. PR or CSR measures, on the other hand, are considered trustworthy and informative – as long as they are not pure ‘greenwashing’ and, for example, society benefits from the measures.


Tip: Involve marketing professionals early on


“This may sound surprising, but a company’s marketing department should be involved in planning measures such as layoffs from the very beginning,” Himme says. “After all, image losses have a direct negative financial impact via falling sales or a low willingness to pay.”


The damage to a company’s brand can be limited by managing marketing, PR and CSR measures in parallel with the announcement of a mass layoff. 


“A long-term, coordinated communications strategy makes perfect sense here and protects the company from further image problems,” advises Himme.


The study, titled ‘How firm communication affects the impact of layoff announcements on brand strength over time’ is published in the peer-reviewed International Journal of Research in Marketing. You can find out more here.

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    Dr. Kin Kariisa is an extraordinary force at the helm of Next Media Services, a conglomerate encompassing NBS TV, Nile Post, Sanyuka TV, Next Radio, Salam TV, Next Communication, Next Productions, and an array of other influential enterprises. His dynamic role as Chief Executive Officer exemplifies his unwavering commitment to shaping media, business, and community landscapes.
    With an esteemed academic journey, Dr. Kariisa’s accolades include an Honorary PhD in exemplary community service from the United Graduate College inTexas, an MBA from United States International University in Nairobi, Kenya, a Master’s degree in Computer Engineering from Huazong University in China, and a Bachelor’s degree in Statistics from Makerere University.
    Dr. Kariisa pursued PhD research in Computer Security and Identity Management at Security of Systems Group, Radboud University in Nijmegen, Netherlands. As a dynamic educator, he has shared his expertise as a lecturer of e-Government and Information Security at both Makerere University and Radboud University.

    Dr Kin did his PhD research in Computer Security and Identity Management at Security of Systems Group, Radbond University in Nigmegen, Netherlands. He previously served as a lecturer of e-Government and Information Security at Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda and Radbond University in Netherlands.

    Dr Kin did his postgraduate courses in Strategic Business Management, Strategic Leadership Communication and Strategies for Leading Successful Change Initiatives at Harvard University, Boston USA.

    • Other current and previous roles played by Dr Kin Kariisa:
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