Your “Brand” positioning and messaging may sound good or interesting on the surface but how deeply does it connect with your prospects, clients, employees, management and other stakeholders? Your “brand messaging” defines you in the most succinct manner and informs all your stakeholders about “what you stand for”. It is integrally tied to your reputation. How does your business “live up to” it’s Brand in the minds of all your stakeholders?
Why does it matter and why should you care? The more alignment your stakeholders feel between your “brand” messaging and what your actual “business” demonstrates both internally and externally the more integrity and “brand loyalty” your brand will garner. From a purely W.O.M perspective, your brand will “travel” much further or in social media parlance “people will be far more likely to share your story and business” with others who they feel may resonate with your business.
Monitoring & evaluating your “brand promise” as an ongoing process is critical to ensure your business is staying relevant and authentic in the minds of your stakeholders. If your business scores low on the fulfillment or enactment of your “brand promise” or does not really connect with stakeholders, it’s an “opportunity” to get together, go on a corporate retreat and re-define the “why” of your business and “evaluate” what needs to be done to make it come alive again in the minds of all your stakeholders. A well-crafted “brand promise” sets the strategic direction, business culture and expectation, breathing life into all its parts.
When your “brand” is not front and center in your strategic thinking and business processes, it is easier to veer off course and in some cases fall off your perch and damage your brand entirely. We have seen numerous examples of such occurring. Let’s take a look at some examples of businesses who excel in living up to their “brand promise” and examples of businesses who have damaged their brands or “blown them up”. No matter how large or small your business, your “brand” is mission critical to your business and to all your stakeholders.
Brands that Excel
Patagonia does an excellent job of living up to its brand which is focused on the environment and sustainability. It embodies its “brand promise” throughout its business. There is no ambiguity about what Patagonia stands for.
Macy’s does an excellent job of living up to its brand which is focused on “excellence in customer service”. You can exchange anything at any time up to one year. You never have to worry about Macy’s living up to its “brand promise”.
GMAC is another good example of a brand that lives up to its price promise and service. It’s consistent and on point.
Brands that Bomb!
Now, let’s look at some examples of businesses that have not lived up to their “brand promise”.
Wells Fargo’s debacle a few years ago with its fraudulent inflating of the number of accounts opened, undue pressure on its employees to fabricate the latter and so on created lasting damage to its brand. When a bank is willing to commit such egregious acts, then balk at taking responsibility, it has damaging consequences. Winning back the “trust” factor takes time and proof of a different culture and not just an advertising campaign stating they have learnt their lesson. Authenticity needs to be demonstrated from the top down and across all its stakeholders with meaningful changes, for it to be believable.
State Farm created substantial ill-will making it difficult for victims of wild fires who had lost their homes in tragic circumstances to go through the claims process and get the funding needed to re-build their homes. Its brand statement “Life a Good Neighbor, State Farm is here” was hardly the case for many victims who were at their most vulnerable during the California wildfires. Whether it is acknowledged or not, consumer trust in State Farm has decreased and anyone choosing to do some research on the internet will not like what they see. Their actions damaged their brand and made a mockery of it.
Volkswagen is another example of a well-known company that tarnished its reputation with its emissions cheating scandal. Known as the “ordinary people’s car” both reliable and affordable, it blew its brand up by “deceiving” the people.
The Catholic Church is another example. How long will it take for the leadership to regain the trust of its congregations?
Its common sense. Live by Your “Brand Promise” because as soon as you start to slip, you will start to disconnect with one or more of your stakeholders. It’s your reputation. If your brand does not connect with your stakeholders, re-examine it. It’s an opportunity to re-define who you are as a business. Monitor it. Don’t ignore it.
Brand Rescue – What do you do when your Brand is on Fire!
If something goes wrong with your business that will impact your brand, take ACTION. When your brand is on FIRE, take action immediately, DO NOT HIDE!
However, take the RIGHT ACTION or you can make it worse. Don’t throw gasoline on a Fire. Take immediate action and get your key constituents into a “war room” and take the time to evaluate what the “right action or response is” taking all your stakeholders into account and then act decisively.
Every “crisis” presents the opportunity for “transformation”. Swift and decisive “honest or vulnerable” action and transparent dialog with all stakeholders in response to a “crisis” alongside lasting solutions or corrections that are embedded into the fabric of an organization will have a far better chance at restoring trust.
The imperfection of human beings will inevitable result in “incidents” that will require “course correction”. When such course correction is required and decisive action is not forthcoming or slow in forthcoming, trust erodes downhill and the impact on the brand/business goes up exponentially.
Your “Brand” is tied to every part of your business. It is your reputation, integrity, inner conviction, purpose and guide for your business and all its stakeholders. If you should you fail at times, make it right quickly.
Building and Aligning Brands with Consumer Values is the Future
The trend for consumers to gravitate to “brands” that share their values is only starting and we foresee this only growing over the next 10-20 years. If you have not clearly defined your brand beyond a more superficial point, if you have no clear brand values then you will lose market share in your industry to competitors who are knocking it out of the park in this regard.
Protect your “Brand”, live your “Brand” and get collective input from all your stakeholders to measure how well you are doing in living up to your brand. Don’t do anything that may dilute your brand integrity. It’s rarely worth compromising it as the above examples have shown.
TAKE AWAY. Monitor and measure your brands effectiveness ongoing. Take a pulse from all your stakeholders (emphasis on ALL) ongoing. Doing so will not only protect your Brand, it will provide the raw data to “course correct” and strengthen it. How many businesses do this? It is the exception and not the rule. Be the exception! Protect your brand integrity. It’s vital for your business health!