In case you missed it, there is a YouTube video of a Tesla car on fire. Immediately, the video went viral and Tesla’s stock took an immediate hit. Media outlets called it, “Tesla’s worst nightmare,” and the video showed up on many news outlets in a matter of hours.

To put some things in perspective, from 2006-2010, the National Fire Protection Association reported there is an average of 152,300 car fires per year. That’s about 17 car fires per hour.

Screen Shot 2013-10-10 at 9.39.42 AMNo car brand is immune to a fire. However, a Tesla in flames was captured on video and the market reacted. How did that happen?

Because Tesla went quiet. It hasn’t said a thing. When that happens, in the absence of delivering your own message, the rest of us fill in the blanks.

By staying silent, Tesla has created a brand vacuum. The whole purpose of having a brand is to give current and potential customers a scaffolding of meaning. When there is a brand vacuum, people make it up on their own because all of us look for meaning in everything. If meaning isn’t provided, we’ll just make it up.

Brand is, in part, the amalgamation of all communication vehicles an organization has at its disposal. When that communication ceases, the brand is damaged and the ability of the organization to control its brand meaning is compromised.

Brands must always control the message, even if it is damage control. The moment you ignore something or hesitate, you put the meaning of your brand in someone else’s hands.