Sunday, April 22, 2012

You Don’t Decide What Your Brand Reputation Will Be

You Don’t Decide What Your Brand Reputation Will Be
Others will do that for you

As a veteran in the marketing communications and public relations industry, there’s one immutable lesson I’ve learned over all others. Others will decide your brand reputation. That’s because a brand doesn’t reside in a logo, slogan or even a web site. It’s an emotional thing that resides between the ears of the audience. They choose what they believe. Period! The phrase “Perception is Reality” is no more important than in the brand management business. The perception by others is the reality we must face.

“We need a new brand!”
Every once in a while, someone will call me and say, “We need a new brand.” I’ve been in the business long enough to know that this nearly always means they want a new logo. In our business, a brand and a reputation are one and the same, so my instinctive thought is, “You want a new reputation?” This is not easily accomplished. A bad reputation cannot be repaired by simply applying a new logo. It’ll still be the same bad company or community, only prettier.

Who determines your name?
At Brand Acceleration, we work with numerous clients with very long names. Architects, engineers and construction companies are notorious for using the names of every principal owner, making it very difficult to say and even harder to remember. Inevitably, their clients will shorten it for them, using only the first name or two. Jones, Smith, Brown and Applegate Architects, Inc. quickly becomes Jones-Smith or simply Jones Group. Worse yet, the company may become JSB&A, leading to the question; “What does it stand for?”

Government agencies, such as our economic development clients, are just as guilty. Washington County Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development Commission is far too much for anyone to remember. Can you imagine how someone might answer the phone? While it certainly sounds like a government agency, it is terrible for marketing. That’s where companies like mine come in. We often are challenged with the development of shorter, more appealing names.

As mentioned above, clients and audiences will often change a long name for you. For example, Federal Express Corporation, the overnight package carrier, learned that its name was far too long and didn’t roll off the tongue easily when customers began to abbreviate it to the much simpler FedEx. Apparently, someone at Federal Express got the message, because the company eventually rebranded itself accordingly. Its trucks, planes, packages and advertising all feature the FedEx logo. Other examples of this include UPS, Chevy, Coke, Pepsi, and countless others with long names. Merrill Lynch, long before its acquisition by Bank of America, was once known as Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith.

Others will decide
While you may be able to influence opinions about your brand by delivering outstanding quality and service, your customers and audiences will always reserve the right to believe what they want. That’s why our team is so passionate about understanding audiences and beginning all marketing communications efforts with them in mind. Whatever we do, if we want it to be believable, must begin with them.

I’d love to hear your opinion. Please feel free to share it below.  

Jim Walton
Brand Acceleration, Inc.
Branding // Marketing Communications // Public Relations
Indianapolis, Indiana
Phone: 317.536.6255
Fax: 317.222.1425
Cell: 317.523.7380

Brand Acceleration is a full-service marketing communications, brand management and public relations firm with a focus on economic development, architecture, engineering and construction.


  1. Great article. I've often heard there are three views of you. What you think about yourself, what others think about you, and the truth.

  2. Thanks Jim,
    I referred the new GM of Purus of North America to your article. They are the world's experts in their field, non-pareil quality + standards + applications &cet.
    But as do many manufacturers, the nuances of Brand/Reputation is sometimes misperceived. Now: They need to import their Brand/Reputation from Germany+Europe to the USA.
    Any suggestions?
    mit freundlichen Grüßen/regards, mark rector