Updated: Apr 14
In business your brand is EVERYTHING.
There's a fatal mistake that you need to avoid at all costs, and to do that you need to understand that your brand is not what you think it is. Rather, your brand is what THEY think it is.
There are lots of things the help to form your brand; your logo, company colours, values, tag lines and an assortment of other intellectual property. But actually none of these are the mythical beast we call your brand.
Put simply, your brand is what the people in the marketplace see when they look at your company - but it's more than that; it's what they think when they see your content, and how it makes them feel.
It's important to understand that your brand is composed of physical elements (your colours, logo and messaging), and the less obvious (and often less tangible) implied elements.
It's the latter that's often less obvious, less understood, and equally most powerful in the minds eye of your customers.
So what are the implied elements of your brand?
The big ones are your associations and social opinion.
It's both of these that you need to be especially careful about, and give due care and attention too when making daily business decisions.
After all, it doesn't matter what your values say on your website if the general public thinks you're dishonest, money grabbing and that you don't care about your customers. You can scream from the rooftops that you place customer service as your top priority, yet it means nothing when you have scores of testimonials telling of your customers experiencing poor service and lacking communication.
Now you look like a liar who doesn't care about their customers... and that's not good for anyone.
That said, you have more control over social opinion that you do your associations.
With social opinion it's easy enough to engage with your critics, haters and loyal fans alike and use their feedback to bridge the gap between what your business does well and the areas in which you are failing. Sometimes it's hard to see the wood for the trees when you're dealing with the daily grind of running a business, and so opening yourself up to how others see you from outside the trenches can be massively valuable and help you to see more clearly the areas in which you need to do better.
In short, if you're willing to listen, be honest about your failings and make an effort to improve then social opinion will always be on your side (even the negative). Everyone has failings and everyone makes mistakes, that's not what's important - people want to see what you'll do when confronted with them.
Will you show up, own your failings and commit to doing better? Or will you deny they exist and bury your head in the sand?
The answer to this question has the power to make or break your brand.
"It takes years to build a reputation, yet only moments to destroy one"
Then there's your associations, and here's why you have less control over these than you might think; the simple truth is that you have ZERO control over the actions of others, the only thing you truly control is your own actions and responses.
The people, businesses and brands you choose to associate your business with can either build you up and add credibility to your message or they can tear you down in a heartbeat.
Think about the political landscape, and how often we see politicians reputations destroyed by their associations, no matter how loose they might be.
This is why it's especially important to take the time to do your due diligence on every person, brand or business you associate with on a regular basis. It is not enough to complete your initial due diligence in the early days and rest on your laurels - it's a process you must be committed to completing at regular intervals throughout your partnerships.
People change, things change, new information comes to light, and it's important to make sure that you're at the tip of the spear when it does so you can make quick and informed decisions about how that association might affect your brand and be ready to terminate those associations the moment you feel your values are no longer in alignment.
This is made especially difficult in that you have no control over when or how this might happen, what new information might be thrust into the public eye and how that will manifest itself in your world.
Which is exactly why you must be the first to know, and the first to act so you can 'get out in front if it' as our friendly politicians often say behind closed doors...
Be informed, do your due diligence, inform others, and be very careful not to find yourself guilty by association.
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