Can tax policy outweigh marketing in terms of how a brand is perceived? The Marketing Society Forum

Tax issues have created a wave of negative publicity for Amazon, Google and Starbucks in the UK.

Can tax policy outweigh marketing in terms of how a brand is perceived? The Marketing Society Forum


How should we feel about drinking coffee bought via Switzerland and taxed in Holland?

If I drank coffee, which I don't, I would feel great. Well done, Starbucks, for being so smart. As a consumer, that would increase my brand loyalty.

As long as it is legal and ethical, there is no problem. Legal compliance is clear in this case. Being ethical in sourcing is a must, hence Fair Trade to protect the vulnerable. Ethical tax paying is about following the rules, however.

I don't think the Treasury counts as vulnerable or exploited.

As for Amazon - standing in front of Ms Hodge not knowing who runs your show is not good for public perception.


Brands should live and breathe their values. Their marketing strategy should be an extension of their ethos, not an add-on. Starbucks' 'creative' tax arrangements seem at odds with its honest, community-focused positioning communicated through every touchpoint.

Tax avoidance is now part of the public consciousness; people don't like companies that don't contribute to the local economy.

Twitter is awash with announcements that Starbucks regulars are buying their grande skinny lattes elsewhere. Creativity is better displayed in a marketing strategy than in a company's accounts.


In a world where there is no hiding of anything much, brands can't expect to get away with things that they may once have, and that includes tax arrangements.

However, to suggest that it could outweigh a brand's marketing strategy is an over-stretch. Sure, such arrangements may lead to lurid headlines for a few days.

It might also lead to red faces for marketers who should have had better media training, but any decent marketing strategy should have crisis-management plans as part of the overall structure.

If it doesn't, it is not the fault of the marketing strategy, but of the senior marketer who signed it off.


The current crop of tax-avoiders are a long way from a Ratner moment. These brands are so hard-wired into our modern lives that apparently we cannot simply cast them off in protest.

This may enrage or depress us, but not enough people are voting with their feet to cause real damage to these huge brands.

This could change, but not until the opposition to their tax practices is organised, mainstream and focused.