There are a lot of brands out there but it can be difficult to distinguish between the basic and the brilliant brands. There are two things that help a company stand out -- the product and the reputation.
A lot of companies focus on their product, as they should, but many don't pay enough attention to their reputation. The reputation of every company is essentially their bumper sticker for which they're known and ideally the reputation is positive versus notorious.
Warren Buffet once said, "It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you'll do things differently."
Reputation is easily undone.
I'm a big believer in the virtues of a hard-built reputation, and there are a lot of drivers that contribute to earning a sterling reputation such as culture, values/mission, the leadership, customer service, corporate social responsibility, and financial performance, to name a few.
When I worked at Uber, we had an amazingly innovative product but we also had a terrible reputation -- a toxic culture punctuated with ethical lapses, leadership woes, and a whole host of case study worthy issues of bad culture that deeply wounded Uber's reputation, so much so that even now, the product is undervalued relative to the market.
Companies should continually focus on their respective reputations and look at Uber and others as cautionary tales as to what pitfalls to avoid.
Growing Market Share and Gaining Customers
According to the 2022 Edelman Public Trust Barometer, people trust companies more so than the government. Specifically:
- 58 percent of people buy or advocate for brands based on their beliefs and values
- 60 percent of people choose a place to work based on their beliefs and values
- 64 percent of people invest based on their beliefs and values
That's more than half of folks who expect more from brands. That's a big shift from what we've seen in the past and even more incentive for brands to ensure that their reputation is beyond reproach.
When you have a solid product and a great reputation it attracts customers, it attracts talent, it engenders trust, and most important, both customers and employees will go to bat for the company. It's much easier to grow market share when you're well liked. For instance, if there is a crisis, hiccup in the product, or a big customer service issue, the company gets the benefit of the doubt and people may be more understanding because of the strength of the reputation.
Talent Attraction or Repulsion
When your brand has a good reputation, people naturally want to join. After all, they've heard good things -- the mission, the people, interesting work, and the culture. They've read positive employee reviews, the word of mouth is strong, and people stay at the company a long time. Those are all very attractive to talent and screams that it might be a place I want to be part of.
However, when a company has a bad reputation, it can repel talent. People won't apply and the great product you're developing is more difficult to launch because you don't have the people needed to build it. Furthermore, if the reputation is really bad, employees will leave faster than you can hire them. That's a real cost on a number of levels -- the resources it costs to advertise roles, the people hours to recruit, interview, hire, and onboard.
Brand and Messaging Congruence
One of the most key aspects of brand reputation is consistently saying and, more important, doing the right things. A lot of companies get caught up in what I call the "see/say" problem -- they'll say one thing but do another.
When companies operate in a way that is contrary to their stated values, they greatly risk diminishing their brand reputation. It's incumbent on companies, particularly leaders, to model and help safeguard against situations that can hurt the brand.
For instance, when an organization or its leaders share views that run counter to the reputation of the company, those views can easily go viral. Once those views are out in the wild, they could contribute to morale issues, could do irreparable harm to the brand, and create unwanted PR issues that are not easily undone because staff no longer trust their leaders. The presumption of leadership requires effectively managing expectations by being straightforward and consistent.
Reputation is easily lost and can have an epic domino effect, because once you lose the trust of your employees, your customers and your stockholders, it can be a long way back to redemption, if at all. So do things differently, continually build a great reputation and don't lose your way.