Is your reputation more important than your brand? Flickr image by Hollywood_PR
The idea for this article popped up in my mind, when over the last couple of days I read about some brands with nasty reputations.
It got me thinking about what is more important for a company. Should it focus on building it’s brand ot building it’s business reputation.
You may feel that I’m just splitting hairs here, but bear with me as I expand my case for focusing on one of them rather than the other. Of course, no prizes for guessing where I lean on, from the domain of this website.
What exactly is a brand?
Here’s a very simple understanding for someone who doesn’t have a PhD in Marketing…
"At its core, a brand is a promise made, an experience consistently delivered and–when managed well–an emotional connection that is hard to break. This promise has the ability to provide direction internally and externally and to serve as a way to differentiate from the competition. Every company (and person) is a brand, viewed by customers and other stakeholders in certain ways."
The problem with this is that there’s a tendency by the brand owner to focus on many externals. Some of these externals would be the logo, layout of the office or retail store, merchandising, etc. To emphasise my point, have a look at this restaurant’s antics as reported by Human Resources Online
"The contract lists stringent rules employees have to comply with, including “any type of attitude will result in immediate termination”, no purses or bags allowed inside the restaurant, and no entertaining of family or friends when employees are on duty."
These guys started off their restaurant hoping to build some sort of brand but failed to appreciate that all processes and policies within the company are more essential to focus on. Because they failed in building their reputation, now they are the target of ridicule and dipping reputation. You can check out their business reputation here on Yelp.
The problem with branding is how do you really measure the brand equity? There are several tools you can use for this, but at the end of the day, would you rather have a high brand equity or would you prefer a sky high reputation?
Still unsure if reputation should be your focus?
Here’s a news item from May 2012 about Walmart topping list of most valuable retail brands.
But this same Walmart didn’t make it to the Top 100 of the 2013 World’s Most Reputable Companies list. Marks & Spenser (another retailer) was #76 though.
The point of the matter is that customers usually don’t use brand equity to determine whether they should patronize a specific brand. Almost no customer knows the brand equity of a business they do business with.
What they use instead is the brand’s or company’s reputation. No customer googles a brand’s brand equity index before buying but almost everyone goes online to check the reputation of a brand or business. Or they may just rely on offline word of mouth.
Having a high brand equity doesn’t bring the customers in, but a solid reputation is a superb customer magnet. That’s what will ultimately build a sustainable business.
Always think about how your processes, products and policies build your reputation and you can’t go wrong. You’ll prosper instead of ending up like Amy’s Baking Company LLC.
Leave brand equity to the investors. Customers need to know your reputation.
And just to spice things out a bit here, I hope businesses don’t follow Joan Jett’s advise in the video below.