As Featured in FORBES: How To Prevent ‘BrandSlaughter’
As entrepreneurs we put a great deal of focus on our visible company attributes such as logo, colors, name and website, reputation, and the esoteric traits of brand promise. But what is a brand, really? It is people’s “gut feelings” about a product, a service or an organization. A brand is not what you say it is. It’s what they (your customers, prospective customers and employees) say it is.
“Your reputation precedes you,” is a sign of brand integrity and of excellence in delivering on “brand promise.” It is a sign that your company, employees and products successfully deliver on the commitments they make. The company’s job, then, is to ensure that all client engagements and interactions successfully follow through in upholding that promise.
“Your leadership is cocky,” is a brand characteristic as well. Perhaps cockiness is an intentional part of the company’s culture in an organization that wants to send a message of “we’re auditioning you to decide if you are good enough for us” to its customers. In that respect, it may represent brand integrity for messages such as “are you good enough to be driving a Mercedes?” or “Are you important enough be wearing a custom-made suit?” But the characteristic, even if it’s authentic, may or may not be desirable to the set of customers you are hoping to serve.
Then there’s the concept of BrandSlaughter. In his book, “Preventing BrandSlaughter,” marketing expert and author David M. Corbin examines the ways an authentic and consistent brand is essential to attracting, engaging and keeping top performers within an organization.
Brand integrity is what happens when the elements of the company’s mission are taken off the wall and put into daily action, Corbin says. You can observe and measure your own brand through “visits with ABI”—the Audit of Brand Integrity that answers the question, “Are we genuinely living our brand?” Inconsistency or failure to deliver on promised results in BrandSlaughter—the quick and painful or slow and insidious death of the organization’s essence, which is, as you probably guessed it, the company brand. According to Corbin:
- The company’s genuine brand is sum of what happens in the hands of each employee and permeates its interactions with customers. In this respect, one bad apple really can spoil the entire company brand.
- If anyone decides that upholding a key characteristic of the brand is “not their job” (such as the 4 C’s of cleanliness, communication, caring and compassion in Corbin’s example), that client-facing or internal failure is devaluing the company brand.
- Consider and measure the way the company and its employees respond to a misstep or a customer complaint. The result is either brand building (which can happen even in the face of a mistake if it is handled well) or is abetting brandslaughter.
- Recognize that brand safety requires a no room for error commitment to quality, versus the perception by employees that what they do doesn’t matter and that no one will know.
- Brand protection includes preventative measures for avoiding mistakes such as unlocked doors, mishandling of sensitive data, and even the integrity the company uses in handling a breach or in protecting the use of its database against third party solicitation for sales.
- Avoidance of brandslaughter means eliminating employees who complain about the company and its leaders to clients and outsiders or who complain internally about the company’s customers, instead of taking positive actions to address their concerns.
- Brand protection depends on leaders who are embodiments of the company’s vision, not walking contradictions to the values the organization claims to uphold.
The solution to these issues and others, Corbin maintains, is a commitment to regular brand audits (visits from “ABI”) as a way to identify strengths and weaknesses in the integrity of the company’s brand. Just as a company measures culture and engagement and the security of its technology and database, doing regular brand integrity assessments results in a holistic approach to leadership. Whether you do the ABI assessments yourself or with the help of outsiders, the exercise will bring people, process and brand together in the creation and strengthening of a clear and authentic brand that will leave the organization poised for success.