It could be said that reputation is what they say about you when you leave the room. I’ve also heard reputation often used as a de facto for brand, and given I describe brand as the result of the promises you keep and reputation is achieved in much the same way, it’s hard to argue there is no link.
Some words that are more specific placeholders for reputation include character, position, standing, notoriety. A dictionary definition is “the estimation in which a person or thing is held, especially by the community or the public generally”.
The way a reputation is built also has much in common with brand. You do things. And over time when you do the same things enough times you become known for those things. This translates into how people talk and think about you. How many times have you heard, “Bob has a reputation as a …” That isn’t happenstance.
Looking at how brand and reputation is each built and used, I think the key difference is that brand comes as a result of personal experience with an organisation. I have to touch it, smell it, buy it. Reputation extends out rippling beyond immediate experience into a broader landscape. I might hear about your reputation from others, but until I experience it I don’t have a relationship that is key to my sense of the brand.
And so the term “brand reputation” that is often used these days feels redundant. With all hope for alignment, your brand and your reputation should be connected and elicit somewhat similar things.
However, there are most certainly plenty of organisations who say their brand stands for something and have a reputation for something completely different. And in those cases I’d say there is a serious misalignment that will be impacting the success of the organisation.
So if you are looking at what your brand stands for, and what your reputation is I would be examining different groups. Your stakeholders can tell you how they see what you stand for because they have experienced what you say and do. And others who may know of you but are more removed can tell you what they understand your reputation to be.
To use one of my brand favorites by way of example, I have first-hand experience of the Toms brand. Their story resonates because things they care about, I also care about. Their shoes are a favourite, they make buying and shipping easy and affordable. I tell people about them whenever the opportunity comes up.
If someone I know were to be asked what they know about Toms they would probably say something like, “Well I haven’t bought anything from them but my friend Michel says their shoes are great and that it feels good buying them because of their one-for-one model.”
That person goes to their site and buys a pair of their shoes and has a first-hand experience of the brand and finds that, yes, they are great and it does feel good buying them. And on…
That’s how brand is extended by reputation, which is in turn is strengthened by brand. You need to understand both. You need to be conscious and deliberate about building both. And while connected, they are different.
See you next week.
Michel is an independent brand analyst dedicated to helping organisations make promises they can keep and keep the promises they make – with a strong, resilient organisation as the result. She also publishes a blog at michelhogan.com. You can follow Michel on Twitter @michelhogan