I woke up on New Year’s Day thinking to myself, “How could it possibly be January again?” The past year seems like an absolute blur. And the year ahead is already proving to give entirely new meaning to the phrase “time flies.”
That’s why I wasted no time making my obligatory New Year’s resolutions. Going to the gym at least three times per week. Saying no to my daily breakfast pastry. Cutting back on caffeine (ha!). Getting at least six hours of sleep per night (double ha!). Alright, some of these may be a bit ambitious – but, truth be told, you can’t reach a goal without setting one.
So with that out of the way, I decided to think about what my marketing resolution could be. Like many within the industry, I could have easily hopped on the big data bandwagon. Or joined the rallying cry for mobile-first customer experiences. Or, more expectedly, reaffirmed the value of enterprise social communities and the growing need for social customer service. But my mind had me going down another path. What is the role of brand and what are the measures we use to assess a brand’s relative success and relevance? Oftentimes, when we think about brands we love, we immediately jump to the “fun stuff”: logos, fonts, colors, taglines, and creative design. Though, as with many other lovely things in life, beauty is only skin deep. Brands are no exception to this rule.
So what exactly sits below a brand’s surface, you ask? Quality? Yes. Content? Yes. Community? Yes. Trust? Yes. Influence? Yes. Reviews? Yes. It’s all of those things – and a lot more. The list goes on and on. However, when I take a step back and think about all that in aggregate, one word screams out to me: reputation.
Reputation, I think, is one of the most forgotten or neglected attributes of a brand, in spite of the fact that it’s typically the single most important factor that allows a brand to grow value and inspire loyalty. It’s the unique combination of how we perceive a brand, how it speaks to us, how we engage and interact with it, as well as the value it brings to our lives. It’s a multi-directional dialogue between a brand and its customers – a brand’s key differentiator in the marketplace. But how do we measure it?
Think of it as the point of convergence between what a brand says about itself and what others say about it. It’s the delta between aspiration and reality or, colloquially speaking, “talking the talk” vs. “walking the walk.” It’s the total experience a brand creates across multiple touch points in relation to the impact it makes relative to its customers wants and needs. And while it would be great for reputation to be a simple, easily measured variable, it’s honestly a rather complicated, multivariate construct that can take on a variety forms. (Insert big sigh)
Yet, in the face of all the pretty bells and whistles that garnish a brand’s exterior, the real and tangible substance that is a brand’s reputation seems to have taken a back seat in current marketing discourse. Well, afterthought no more. My marketing resolution is to put brand reputation on a pedestal. Because, at the end of the day, it’s not how beautiful your logo is or how memorable your tagline may be that makes your brand endure within the hearts and minds of your customers. It’s your brand’s reputation that makes the critical difference.
As an industry, we’ve got some heavy-lifting to do in order to create more objective and consistent measures of reputation as well as the definitions around what constitutes reputational success. But we can’t get there without a resolution to try.
So while the gym may become more and more an estranged friend for me as the year unfolds , a renewed focus on brand reputation will continue to be a priority. After all, what good is a brand if its reputation doesn’t stack up?