Three drivers of what people think your brand stands for

Three drivers of what people think your brand stands for

When people start talking about brand one of the inevitable questions that pops up is “what do you think X org” stands for? This question gets asked of employees, customers, partners – pretty much any stakeholder with a pulse will at some time or another get it thrown at them.

It’s a great question that can reveal a multitude of wins and sins. More complex is what lies behind people’s answers. So what does drive what people think you stand for?

The list isn’t a long one.

  1. My experience with you
  2. What you say about yourself
  3. What other people say about you

And yes, they are high-level, but when you drill down a bit it quickly becomes obvious that there is no detail too small.

1. My experience with you

The importance of experience isn’t news to anyone who reads this blog regularly. Nor is the need to align what you do and how you do it around what you care about, so I feel what you stand for embedded in every point of the way I interact with you.

So why do so many organisations get it wrong? And by wrong I mean wrong for them, not some generic universal wrong.

The experience that shapes what I think you stand for begins the moment I come into contact with some part of your organisation. It might be a salesperson, an ad, your website, your store, your product on a shelf of someone else’s store, someone who works for you at an event.

And it continues right along as I continue to interact with you. Which means a whole bunch of little things are part of it (to go along with the big things everyone talks about):

  • Getting the answer to a question or problem
  • Getting a quote from you (and trying to understand what it does or doesn’t include)
  • Setting up an account with you (yes, finance is part of experience)
  • Paying for what I bought
  • Signing up for your newsletter
  • Reading the newsletter (or more often not) when I get it
  • Coming to your office or store
  • How long you take to take my order and then getting it right
  • Taking the product I bought out of its packaging
  • And on and on (you can make your own list)

I’m not making a judgement about how you go about doing these things. Just suggesting that you think about them. Because when it comes to what you stand for, the devil of getting me to believe it is most certainly in the details.

2. What you say about yourself

How you market what you do is important. It’s even more important that it aligns with what you can do. What I think an organisation stands for is often introduced to me via their marketing and as a result has a huge responsibility.

Because the way that introduction happens can either set you up with me for success or failure. Too much hype and you doom me to be disappointed. Not enough about why I should care and I’ll start making assumptions (often based on #3).

The role of marketing in getting the whole awareness ball rolling is why so many mistake it for the ball game when it comes to brand (but that’s another blog or five that I’ve already written).

3. What other people say about you

A few weeks ago I wrote about reputation and the role it plays in brand. You can read it here. What other people say about you to me, other friends, associates or if we’re talking social media, virtual strangers, can play a big role in what I think you stand for.

But it is important to remember that what they say doesn’t happen in a vacuum. You have a big role to play (see #1 and #2) in shaping that conversation. I’ve never known anyone who woke up one morning and decided to trash an organisation. There’s usually something else going on. A promise broken. An expectation not met. A product that didn’t work right. A service call that didn’t solve the problem… these are mostly things that you can impact and it’s in that intersection that the answer to “what do you think X org” stands for lives.

So what do you want the answer to that question to be?

Do you actively look into every detail of your organisation to find ways to ensure that is the answer you get? Or do you just cross your fingers and hope I won’t notice the gaps?

Here’s the thing. If you don’t take care of these three drivers I will. I do. And when I get asked that question the answer won’t be what you want it to be.

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 You can follow Michel on Twitter @michelhogan.


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