It’s not uncommon to hear senior business leaders refer to brand and reputation as if they were one and the same. Sure, there’re plenty of similarities. But there’re even more fundamental differences, such that mistaking the two distinct concepts can get your business into a lot of trouble.
Let’s start by defining brand. Legendary advertiser, David Ogilvy described brand as “the intangible sum of a product’s attributes.” Weighty stuff. Another way to put it is that brand is the perception people will have of your company, product, or service. It’s not just the factual information, but also the emotional content.
Brand is a gauge of how recognizable your company is, as well as how strongly it’s associated with the attributes that consumers care about, anything from ruggedness, individuality, luxury, elegance, the list goes on.
Now reputation. Where brand is focused on the customer, reputation is all about the credibility your company commands among its major audiences. Not just customers, but employees, investors, regulators, journalists, communities as well. A strong brand doesn’t guarantee a good reputation. But a good reputation doesn’t equate to a strong brand either.
So why do business leaders get them mixed up? Well, the broad goals of both brand management and reputation management are pretty aligned, i.e. marshaling positive sentiment towards your company. But companies (in general) and crisis teams (specifically) need to dive deeper if they want to maintain a high reputation mark. And let me tell you why getting a low one really matters.
While reputation doesn’t actually positively differentiate your company from the competition in the way that having a strong brand does, it’s still a baseline all companies need to maintain in order to remain viable. Fall below that baseline and you risk some pretty catastrophic consequences, including the following:
- Loss of current or future customers, which leads to lost revenue and/or increased customer acquisition costs
- Loss of top-talent, which increases recruitment costs and/or lowers workplace productivity
- Loss of current or future business partners, which can lower efficiency and raise costs
- Increased cost of capital funding via credit or equity markets
- Increased regulation, including fines or penalties for infractions
And that’s the central task of reputation management. Reputation management aims to ensure that none of the above happens, by proactively identifying exposures, perils, and hazards to your company’s reputation and assessing them in terms of likelihood and severity. Curious how social media monitoring tools can be the key to unlocking a successful reputation management program? Download our paper on social media monitoring and reputation management.