In short– the answer is ‘no’ – however, that’s not everything you need to know in order to have a remarkable brand and 5 star reputation. And while there are many key differences (which we’ll outline shortly), one thing they have in common is they both require tedious, tactful and timely management and mishandling a crisis in one can wreak havoc on the other.
More and more we’re seeing a shift towards a more conscious consumer with emerging values in holistic health, sustainability, workplace happiness, fair pay, etc. The only way for a business to protect their brand and maintain a competitive edge in this new market is to respond to their consumers by adapting and incorporating their ever changing desires.
We call this “keeping your finger on the zeitgeist” and it takes constant effort due to the quick and changing nature of trends. However, not staying current and relevant is surely your death sentence and can quickly turn to loss of business, public outcry and even boycott.
Bottom line here: brand and reputation are definitively different but have major impacts on each other. And while both require skill and strategy, you can think of your brand as a commodity and your reputation as something that can’t be bought.
To Begin: What is a Brand?
So, this may seem like a basic question but it’s more involved than you think. We’re all familiar with brand names like Nike, Target, REI, Dove, etc. but what are they beyond names and logos?
More often than not, your brand is the first point of contact with your target market. It’s the “it factor” that gives you the edge over the competition and convinces a consumer to buy it, buy into it, and to keep coming back for more. In other words, your brand maintains your relevance.
Sometimes it’s a tangible commodity and other times it’s a symbol, image or story you want to tell. You can build it, shape it, design it, own it. This is why working with a brand agency is more popular today than ever because getting your brand right can make or break your business at the start.
Bottom line here: a brand is the product, image or aspiration you’re trying to sell.
How is Brand Different From Reputation?
The follow through of your brand promise, is your reputation. It’s the voice and actions of the people behind your brand. The qualities and standards you’re known for in the world of commerce. It’s what people expect and assume of your company and product. And since it relies heavily on how others view your product or service, you have a degree less control over it than your brand.
Reputation is also your credibility and who stands behind your brand. A well known and respected reputation can help you attract the best investors, ambassadors, and talent.
Bottom line here: your reputation is what you’re known for in terms of quality, standards and values. It’s how you’re seen by others. And it’s also about who stands behind your product and service.
What’s More Important, Brand or Reputation?
Let’s reiterate here that both play a vital role in your success which is why new markets like “brand and reputation risk management” are starting to emerge.That being said, damage to one is much harder to repair than damage to the other.
Many times re-branding can have positive benefits and actually enhance your reputation.
For example, recently Burger King returned their 90s era logo and removed the bright blue swish to demonstrate their move away from their use of artificial colors and flavors.
General Motors also updated their logo to promote their new tagline and re-branding of being known as the world’s leader in manufacturing electric vehicles.
In both cases, these companies are shifting towards something more modern that appeals to the conscious consumer market.
Unfortunately, there is no equivalent of re-branding when it comes to your reputation. However, with the right strategy and a cohesive response, damage to your reputation can be the perfect opportunity for company transparency and to demonstrate your company’s true core beliefs and values.
Nike, for example, was able to repair their reputation of using sweatshops by being transparent with their practices, stating they would no longer support such inhumane working conditions, and then majorly appealing to their more liberal audience by having Colin Kaepernik be the face of their Just Do It campaign. Luckily, Nike had such a long standing and loyal brand following, their reputation was salvageable with big risk and minimal effort.
Bottom line here: You can damage your reputation but not your brand. Damage to your reputation can take years to recover. And sometimes your reputation can be so damaged, re-branding is the only solution.