Public Relations

Brand vs Reputation – The Differences Explained

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It’s becoming more and more common to see the words “brand” and “reputation” used synonymously or grouped together as if they are one with terms like “brand reputation management”. However, while the two terms may be compounded in certain scenarios, they have very different concepts attached to them.  Simply put a brand is within your control and something you position yourself as while a reputation is based off of third-party perceptions. Each requires their own tactics and strategy to manage.

What is a brand?

What is reputation?

How does brand affect reputation?

Can a reputation have an effect on a brand?

What is a Brand?

A brand whether it be a company’s brand or a personal brand is something built out and shaped internally before it’s presented to the world. A well-thought out and cultivated brand demonstrates to customers, employees, and the market how you want to be seen and what your core values are. This developed brand can be used to influence opinions and how the public perceives you through design strategies, marketing campaigns, media strategies, images and more.

Branding can set a company apart from their competitors and show their target audience the key differentiators that make them a relevant option. A company is in complete control of their brand image and a strong, consistent one can establish lasting connections with the consumers that resonate with the brand.

Elements of a Brand:

To ensure a strong lasting brand, strategic steps need to be taken to represent yourself or your company in the best way. This can be done through a couple of different mediums.

Visual Identity

The first way companies present themselves in the market is through their visual identity. This is made up of all the visible design attributes associated with the company from logos to the company colors on the website and social media channels to typography to the design of any physical stores. It’s almost like an expression of the personality of your brand and your company.

Having a well-designed and appealing visual identity can create an emotional connection with customers as well as boost brand recognition and awareness across channels.

Brand Messaging

Going a step farther than eye-catching visuals and appealing color palettes, to get the word out about your company’s overarching mission and core values you need consistent, strategic brand messaging. Brand messaging uses tone of voice, language, and an internally decided upon core message to communicate to the public a company’s ideas and values.
To ensure that messaging is connected across the company from department to department a lot of businesses will bring on an integrated marketing communications (IMC) team. The IMC process makes sure that there is a unified brand message being conveyed across all consumer facing channels including marketing, public relations, and advertising. When brand messaging is cohesive it can drive a high customer engagement for products and solutions.

Customer Experience

Another part of a company’s brand image is their customer experience. While part of this is affected by visual identity it also is affected by the ease of navigation both online and instore, the helpfulness of any customer reps that consumers may come into contact with, and the quality of the product or solution they are purchasing. How all of this is handled sets the tone for how your brand wants to be perceived. Customer experience is also a brand element that blurs the lines when it comes to brand vs. reputation.

Example of a Strong Brand

Just because a company is well-known doesn’t mean they have a strong brand. What to look for is if they are recognized for their name alone or for what they stand for. 

For example, Nike is a great example of a company with a strong brand image. Just as well known as the company name is their catch phrase, “Just Do It” and their iconic swish logo. The company has also involved itself in countless campaigns demonstrating that it cares about athletes and people in general. These inspiring marketing efforts have established Nike as more than an athleisure brand and has helped them make lasting emotional connections with consumers.

What is Reputation?

While a brand is effectively how a company presents itself, reputation is how a company is perceived by the general public. With a brand, the company from the marketing team to the C-suite has control over the messaging and images that are being seen by its audiences. Reputation on the other hand is decided by opinion and once one has been established it’s difficult to change.

A reputation can be either positive or negative and can drastically affect potential deals and sales. It shows first-time audiences if others think you are trustworthy or reliable, and though opinion may not seem like it should be a swaying factor in business decisions, recommendations and third-party validation goes a long way.

Factors That Influence Brand Reputation

There are a number of factors that can play into how a brand’s reputation fairs, from public perception to company news to product quality.

Public Perception

Especially in the digital world, people’s thoughts and opinions on everything are on full display. Reputation is reliant on these thoughts and opinions forming a positive public perception. Platforms like Reddit and OpenTable exist for a reason, people trust other people and want to know what places, products, or services they recommend. 

Too many negative stories and a reputation can be irrevocably damaged. It’s important for companies to pay attention to what their audiences are saying about them. If it’s positive, lean in, if it’s negative it might be beneficial to try and control the narrative.

Trustworthiness

Trust is one of the biggest factors in company reputation. There are many things that can be remedied but breaking a customer’s trust is hard to come back from. Having a reputation as a trustworthy brand is one of the most important things a company can maintain. This can be established through follow through on promised delivery times or ensuring best of breed quality on every product. Trustworthiness can also be demonstrated in how a company reacts to a negative review or media story. Quick, honest, and thought out responses to crises will help companies regain trust if there is a dip in reputation.

Ethical Practices

Ethical practices are an important part of the puzzle when it comes to  establishing a good reputation. It plays into both trustworthiness and public perception by showing audiences that not only do you have a solid product or solution but you can also back it up with an unshakeable ethical code. Many people don’t want to support businesses with news of employee strikes or companies that support less than savory ideals. It’s important to show that your company is a stand-up brand, not just a reliable product.

Examples of Good Reputation

A company that has established a great reputation from their customer service to their products to their business practices is Trader Joes.

Trader Joes is beloved across America for their wide-range of food and beverage products, their always cheery staff, and their record low prices. There is almost always an outpouring of positive public sentiment and consumers are incredibly loyal to the brand. This stellar reputation is in large part due to the company’s track record of continuously releasing top-of-the-line products and making sure that staff members are helpful and happy – creating a great experience for all shoppers.

How Does Brand Affect Reputation?

While companies’ can’t have complete control over their reputation and how people speak about them, the way they present themselves – their brand – does impact people’s perceptions. A company without a thought-out message or well-designed visual representation could be deemed as lackluster, low-quality, or even untrustworthy. Consumers like to feel that they know a company, as much as they can, so building a brand that connects with your target audience is the first step in solidifying a positive reputation.

Can a Reputation Have an Effect on a Brand?

Just as brand affects reputation, reputation can have an effect on brand image. Even if you have the best brand in the industry with a great color palette and quippy one liners that perfectly convey your mission statement – a bad reputation can make all the hard work that went into it pointless. If consumers view your company as untrustworthy or unreliable, that is what becomes your brand to the general public. It is possible to bounce back from a blow to the reputation and re-establish brand image but in order to do that the company’s reputation needs to be re-cultivated first.

Conclusion

Brand and reputation aren’t mutually exclusive, companies do need to consider both and play one off the other in order to be successful in business. But, as mentioned throughout the article they do both require different approaches. While you can’t force a good reputation, you can curate a good brand in order to influence the public’s perception – which in turn will hopefully result in a good reputation.

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