October 2020 · 4.5 Min Read
There are lots of articles written by respected people and institutions that say your brand is all about your customer. They’ll tell you that the purpose of your brand is to make your business relevant and to make it stand out. They’re right. They’ll also tell you that your reputation is about legitimacy. Questions over the credibility of your business and a lack of respect will affect the relationship you have with suppliers and the motivation of staff. They’re right about that too. What sometimes gets missed is the way in which your brand can affect your reputation and your reputation can affect your brand.
It seems obvious but we don’t often think about it. We can only control our own actions and our own thoughts. Even that can be a struggle. Everybody else’s thoughts and actions are in their hands so having total control over your reputation is impossible. That doesn’t mean that you can’t influence other people. If that were true, sales and marketing wouldn’t exist. For many businesses, their number one focus is, understandably, to influence their potential customers. External communications quickly become the priority. Thoughts turn to websites, fonts, copy, product benefits, sales tactics and occasionally even customer service. They see this as the creation of their brand.
They’re almost right but something is always missing with this approach. Their message is often confused and inconsistent. Why? They’re yet to truly define their brand. Trevor Lorkings eloquently describes a brand as “painting pictures in other people’s minds”. Yet, before we can paint those pictures, we need to make sure that every painter knows the pictures we want people to see. What's the goal? Who are you talking to? What feelings are these pictures intending to evoke? What personality lies behind them? How does that affect their tone of voice, the way in which those pictures are expressed?
When businesses start thinking about their message, they are looking for a masterpiece; something that truly makes them different without losing relevance. If they get this right and communicate well, they will start to make a huge impact but it won’t be enough to just communicate their message in advertisements and on their website. Every client interaction will be painting a part of the same picture, ensuring consistency and clarity. This will almost certainly be beneficial for their reputation.
Every move you make, every breath you take, they’re watching you. You might not be actively trying to influence the way people think about you but you are. You can’t control other people’s thoughts but you can control your actions and your actions are your brand. The way others think of you is your reputation. This is partly where we come back to the point about legitimacy. A great brand can make your potential clients buy from you but a bad reputation can cause suppliers to disappear, a high turnover of staff, a reluctance to invest and a multitude of other problems. There have been a number of studies that point to employees being less motivated when they don’t understand or agree with the purpose of an organisation. Similarly, many suppliers will not want to be associated with organisations whose values are fundamentally different and investors will be wary of working with businesses that are unsure of their strategy.
A version of this quote is widely attributed to Jeff Bezos but it’s nothing new. People have been saying something similar for many years. Yet, as Trevor Lorkings rightly points out in his podcast interview with Alan Hennessy, it’s a saying that might be better associated with your reputation. After all, you can’t control other people’s thoughts. Yet, as we’ve said above, you can influence them, which is why there seems to be a huge flaw in the way most businesses treat their brand. A brand that is solely focussed on customer communications neglects to take account of the effect a bad reputation can have on potential clients.
This saying better reflects the truth of your brand, which is why focussing on the traditional areas that make you relevant and stand out is not enough, especially in a world where almost everything you do can be seen. It’s not enough to be clear and consistent in the way you communicate with clients, you need to be clear and consistent in the way you communicate with everyone. If you are claiming one thing to the outside world, you’d better make sure that your staff, your suppliers, your investors and every other stakeholder are seeing the same thing or eventually, your potential clients will find out. This will cause a loss of trust and eventually, a desertion of customers.
Clients will buy from you based on the benefits of what you’re selling and your reputation. Your reputation is built in many different ways, most of which are out of your control but one thing you can control is your brand. Let’s clarify a few points:
Before you can live your brand, you need to make sure your whole company and anybody who speaks in your name understands it. If they don’t, clear and consistent communication will be impossible. [email protected] today and ask us how we can help you to Define Your Brand.
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How to get the most from your Brand Definition Workshop.
Think about your audience.
What does a bad reputation have to do with your brand?