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5 ideas on Reputation (and why it matters)

Reputation is one of the most important factors for a brand’s success and longevity. But what is brand reputation, how do we measure it, and why does it matter so much? In lieu of these questions and of Cecilia Troiano’s speech at the “Mulheres do Varejo” event, I’ve summarized below some ideas that might have you thinking differently about brands and their role in our lives.

When we think about reputation, we usually think about our perceptions of a person, an organization, or a company that has caught our attention, either positively or negatively. Think about, for example, someone who you admire and look up to. Are they part of your family or close circle of friends? Are they your work colleague or gym partner? Chances are, we hold a positive view of these people because their reputation precedes them, which means we perceive them in a positive light. This also means that we are more likely to have a more affectionate relationship with this person and be more forgiving of their occasional slip up. “We forgive you!”– we say to them.

Well, it turns out that this narrative is the same for brands. So, if individual reputation is how we perceive and think about certain people, brand reputation is how customers, employees, partners, or others perceive and hold beliefs about certain brands and organizations.

Brand reputation can also be understood as the combination of corporate identity and corporate image. Corporate identity is the sum of a company’s attributes and value propositions that differentiates it from its competitors, the promise that it makes to the public. Corporate image, on the other hand, is how the company is perceived and understood by other people, outside of it. Thus, corporate reputation is the result of these two areas, where an internal identity and set of external perceptions creates a sense of prestige and relevancy.

The Global Reputation Tracker from Reputation Institute is one of the tools available for evaluating brands’ reputations in a metric that gathers several drivers and factors, which include innovation, workplace, conduct, citizenship, leadership, performance, and products & services. The factors influencing these drivers often spark from single measurements such as equal opportunities in the workplace or employee rewards. And how do you create a reputable brand? Here, the process of elaboration plays a central role, where building a solid brand requires familiarity and favorable, strong, and unique associations from which people can base their judgements on. And the global tracker from Reputation Institute brings us many companies who have managed to do this, from Lego’s efforts towards sustainability to Netflix and Disney’s release of fresh and entertaining content.

The interesting thing about reputation is that it can also be applied to other areas in our society. Take cities, for example. They too can be ranked according to their reputation and hence people’s perceptions of it. And, of course, to bring more relatability to our context of “Mulheres do varejo,” companies in this sector were also evaluated–the 2021 Merco (Monitor Empresarial de Reputação Corporativa) ranking showed us many retail companies that managed to get on a high spot on the general leaderboard amongst organizations of all industries! For a couple of years, TroianoBranding was also responsible for MarCo, a ranking from Época Negócios that judged companies’ reputations. Our methodology evaluated them based on 10 drivers: admiration, trust and ethics, quality of products or services, socio-environmental responsibility, company history and evolution, innovative attitude, being guided by a Purpose, efficient administration, commitment to the country's development and work environment.

So, now that you’ve gotten a good idea of what brand reputation is and how it is measured, let’s now turn to 5 quick ideas about reputation.

As many of you reading this article may know, we at TroianoBranding are often involved in projects for brands that speak to women, aside, of course, from our team that is mostly made up of them. It is with this view that I believe that women are, in fact, more “trained” and likely to meet the needs that reputation brings. In fact, it is precisely the feminine spirit, an essential nature identified in women, that makes them perfect caregivers, capable of having a comprehensive view of the world. Because of these capabilities, I believe that women are a perfect fit for professional reputation management positions in the companies and organizations they work for. Undoubtedly, this also helps them to develop an adaptation mechanism that helps to share reputation management across all hierarchies of a business. And, I’ll say one more important thing on this subject – reputation can also be, of course, in the hands of men, since women are not sole bearers of their caring responsibilities, but, in fact, aggregating forces of the feminine spirit that lives within every human being, regardless of gender.

The second insight I want to bring is related to a phrase that we say all the time: “Brands are not sidings.” In today’s world of “social transparency,” brands have taken center stage, in the sense that we can all see their movements, their actions on the world. We have become diligent spectators, watching companies’ every move, which are propagated even further by the media. In this state of affairs, reputation plays an ever bigger role, allowing brands to show their true self to the watchful eye of the public. Here, reputation reigns supreme, and brands should not hide, but instead, build their character so that they come back stronger and with a differentiated image. Transparency, in itself, can be a very challenging aspect of today’s market, but to those brands who operate inside out with clarity and integrity, the extra visibility can add more than harm.

If an extra pair of eyes creates more opportunities for a brand to prove itself, a good and solid reputation allows a company to shield itself from potential harms that may cross its path. If we think about reputation as the roots of a tree, a strong reputation grounded in transparency and quality, provides the ideal protection from any unforeseen blows that the wind may bring about. In other words, if a brand has a strong reputation and is wholly respected, liked by the public, crises of all types that may eventually come will cause no great damage to the company. With deep and solid roots, the tree is able to survive and thrive, even under tough circumstances. And more specifically, a better reputation can also protect brands’ key success points, which range from stakeholder relationships to overall performance and motivation. How many times have you bought from a brand, even when you knew the product they were offering wasn’t the best? How many times have you not bought from a brand because you knew this same brand had committed many other mistakes in the past? You do the math, I hope the answer was a few times or never. From my view, an established reputation even grants companies greater freedom to come out with different solutions and products, which are much more likely to be accepted by the public given their spotless track record. This is the power of a positive reputation.

Another aspect that people overlook when talking about reputation is how it impacts overall performance. Something as simple as a positive online review, for instance, can lead customers to spend more than 31% on a business. Also, when it comes to performance, Charles Fombrun and Cees Van Riel state that “since outside investors in firms’ securities are less informed than managers about firms’ future actions, corporate reputations increase investor confidence that managers will act in ways that are reputation-consistent.” Therefore, reputation acts almost as a magnet, positively affecting different areas of a business such as market share, new investments, and labor force productivity. It comes to no surprise therefore that the 10 most highly reputable companies on the S&P 500 Index outperform others with a lower reputation, with 2.5 higher stock performance. Brand reputation matters, and it’s more than just perceptions–it’s a way to improve the bottom line in the long run.

Finally, when we talk about reputation, we also need to talk about Purpose. Purpose is indeed what feeds a brand’s reputation, because after all, the entire meaning of existence for a brand depends on its raison d’etre: Why does it exist and what does it offer the world? BrightHouse was right when stating that a brand’s Purpose is much more than what they do, but what they stand for. Brands that stand for something already have a leg up over other organizations that are too focused on market contracts and social responsibility. We at TroianoBranding are also passionate about Purpose-driven solutions. Our own methodology, “Rota do Soul,” helps companies realize their true potential by identifying their unique talents and key differentiating characteristics. After this buildout and with the right Purpose in place, a positive brand reputation is just a stone’s throw away and can be clearly visible to anyone within reach, from the way people speak about a company’s products to how likely someone is to buy their newest brand extension. And, of course, a solid reputation is indeed the fruit of the combination between corporate identity and corporate image. But Purpose is the greater, ultimate force in play in this scenario and it should religiously dictate every action a brand takes.

Cecilia’s speech at “Mulheres do Varejo” is just one step towards understanding the intricacies of reputation and how brands can improve on this front. Yet, given all these ideas, I like to think of reputation as something we repeat a lot in our company, a phrase coined by the great Jeff Bezos: “Brand is what people say to you when you’re not in the room.” What do people say when your brand is not in the room? Does it receive criticism? Is it loved and valued by all? Can it venture into a possible brand extension? For these questions and many more, reputation offers companies the chance to change how they are perceived and interacted with, because our instinct-driven acumen rarely lets us down. If they do, reputation is not the last, but the first thing we look to.


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