How to use your brand to build your reputation

A brand is a product, service, or concept that is publicly distinguished from other products, services, or concepts so that it can be easily communicated and usually.


Well, quite a wordy but nonetheless relatively complete definition of a “brand”.

A company’s brands, and the public’s awareness of them, are often used as a factor in evaluating a company. In fact companies frequently hire market research firms to study public recognition of brand names, as well as attitudes toward the respective brands. This information is generally accepted as the public’s opinion of the company as a whole.

Here is the famous advertising copywriter and ad agency founder David Ogilvy’s definition of a brand:

“The intangible sum of a product’s attributes: its name, packaging, and price, its history, its reputation, and the way it’s advertised”.

A brand is the essence or promise of what will be delivered or experienced, and so it can be understood how this is directly related to the image and public opinion of the company itself. Enough said, I think, on the construct and “technicality” of a brand. I would like to expand on certain qualities alluded to I the above.

A brand for a company is like a reputation for a person.

A brand has been described as the accumulation of memories, stories, expectations and relationships and in this context the power of the brand can be understood in more personal terms. I refer to the comment above but would remove any element of doubt. A brand IS the reputation. It is not a just a logo, a suave TV advertisement or a savvy marketing campaign. It is not even just the representation of the product, service and operations of the company (but clearly if these fundamental activities fail to live up to the standards promoted by the brand “image” then the market and consumers will soon enough relay this back to the organisation) it is reputation; a “perceived” concept as much as an experienced one.

An example? BP. They spent hundreds of thousands of pounds re-designing their “old” petro-chemical, 1960’s-styled logo into one that is more environmentally suggestive – a lovely, stylised daisy-type flower. Did this help them when they were trawled through the American courts and the World’s press for “destroying the American South-East coast, it’s towns, industries and economy.” I suggest not. It was they, the “British” oil company, that did this. An immense amount of time and money has and will continue to be spent in re-building this whole area but how much more will have to be invested into the good folk of the US to re-build the BP reputation?

Another example closer to home, maybe? Mr Blair and Cool Britannia. It all started very well it seems (or at least if you ignore the cheesy schmoozing of come of the coolest of Britain’s rock and music scene at Tony’s garden party’s), but, a few invasions, cabinet indiscretions and economic trials later and his reputation, I would suggest, is somewhat tarnished. Very few of the “good” that he may have inspired and delivered will be remembered before the fact that he took us into an illegal war and lied to various committees. Nixon, he may not be, but their reputations, I suggest, have parallels that cannot be ignored. So, your reputation is your brand and your brand only reflects and communicates your reputation. It is worth, then, understanding what a reputation is.

Reputation: The estimation in which one is held; character in public opinion; the character attributed to a person, thing, or action; repute.

and there it is. It is so much more than “brand” in so far as it reaches further. It precedes you, surrounds you and follows in your wake. In order to reinforce this point I would briefly refer you to the following recognised understanding of (face to face, and I would suggest even face to TV) communication interaction:

• 7% of message pertaining to feelings and attitudes is in the words that are spoken.

• 38% of message pertaining to feelings and attitudes is paralinguistic (the way that the words are said).

• 55% of message pertaining to feelings and attitudes is in facial expression.

Essentially what I am saying here is that people may recognise your logo and products, they may even remember some of the words that you say but no amount of suave communication techniques in styling, tonality, stance, body language etc will repair a dodgy reputation so it is important, even critical, to your own and your business success to view your brand as your reputation and work on that.

What is your reputation?

What do people “say” about you when you are not there?

How do they “relate” to your and your brand?

My advice is 3-fold.

Firstly, be authentic. Ensure that you and your message (product/service) is consistent and genuine. If you are recognised as trying to be all things to all people, of being something of a chameleon and/or appear to change your mind and image to suit the respective environment then you WILL trip yourself up at some point. Be you and be true. Be authentic to you and your “brand.” Be multi-facetted but not two-faced.

Secondly, integrate your values into your business. It is one thing being authentic (but so are Middle Eastern dictators !) but another to fully integrate your own values into your life and work. If you want to display enviro-friendly policies then don’t take unnecessary flights or use huge-engined cars. If you want to project trust then act accordingly and trust others. If you want to be recognised as a fantastic employer then have genuinely motivational engagement and employment policies. The first test may be defining actually what your personal values are and how strong they resonate with you, then you will never really have to worry about your reputation – you will be thinkig, doing and being it every day.

Thirdly, do not expect to change the World with a logo. Start local, build your business, brand, and maybe niche, by serving a small but dedicated group of clients and partners and staff. They will build and communicate you reputation. They will become your cheerleaders and fans. You cannot be in all places at all times but your fans can. If they are convinced in your authenticity and values and if you walk your talk and deliver these values with consistent, tangible, authentic action, then they will be your reputation promoters. They will not only deliver but they will defend, spread and enhance your brand.

By including your values into every aspect of your life you will find that your brand will reflect these values. There will always be the up’s and downs’s of business activity – relatively “good” times and “bad” – but your reputation sticks around. It is HOW you deal with your stakeholders that matters – staff, customers, shareholders, community, partners – and not just what you deliver to them. A reputation can be a life in the making and no amount of “branding” and marketing will totally cover over a damaged reputation. An authentic, values-based, ethical reputation will, I suggest, cost far less in the long term than a reputation for unfair, inequitable, self-agrandising, red-braces-based business. Your brand is you and you are your values and your values in action.

To build and protect your brand, build and protect your reputation.

*excepts taken from “An A – Z Introduction to Ethiconomics” by Philip A Birch

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