In legal terms, a brand is an image or name associated with a company for the purpose of identifying that company’s goods or services in its market. In reality, it is much more than that. A brand is embodied in everything a company does or doesn’t do and customers form opinions about the company based on what they perceive the brand to be.
Companies build reputations around their brands, and reputation is an incredibly powerful thing. Proctor & Gamble is a great example of this: According to Forbes.com, as of May 2016, “Pampers” is number 50 on the list of the World’s Most Valuable Brands. However, in 2011, Proctor & Gamble paid more than $3 million to settle claims that the Pampers “Dry Max” diapers caused chemical burns. Despite this, Pampers is trusted as a brand with loyal customers who grew up with their products and continue to use them.
Eventually however, a bad reputation will catch up with you, and if your brand is smaller than Pampers it will probably be sooner rather than later. Think about how quickly sponsors dropped Ryan Lochte after his story of being robbed in Rio turned out to be false. For small businesses, this could mean the difference between failure and success. For example, if you give someone a poorly written contract, they may not want to do business with you. It may imply to your potential customer that you are willing to cut corners in your own business, and it may cause them to wonder if you would cut corners when working with them. The smaller your market is, the bigger difference each customer makes, which is why making a positive impression in all aspects of your business matters.
An important part of building a good reputation is representing your brand positively. Be good at what you do and be clear about your message. Don’t use photos of celebrities to endorse your brand if you don’t have a contract with them—its dishonest and could get you in legal trouble later. Furthermore, be honest about the products and services you’re providing and keep the information on your website accurate and up-to-date.
Your customers only see a glimpse of what you do, which is why it is important to make sure that the glimpse you give them is a great one. Nothing can buy brand loyalty and the best way to accrue a following is through a positive reputation. Being mindful of how you’re representing your brand can go a long way to ensuring that it has a positive presence on the market. Remember, you are your brand and everything you and your employees do should reflect your knowledge of that.