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We have written volumes on brand image, what it is, how you get it, and more importantly who owns it. Yes, who owns your brand image. The marketing folk would like you to believe that you own your brand image. Yes, you promote what you want that image to be. This is done through marketing programs that tell your prospects and customers what they can expect when they buy your product.
Your Customers Own Your Brand Image
But as time goes on, your brand image becomes what your customers have grown to expect from your brand. It becomes theirperception, not what you promote through marketing. This happens as a result of your customers’ own experiences with your products, what they hear from others, how you handle customer service, and their own expectations about what you, as the brand producer, stand for. If, for instance, you get involved in a scandal, your customers may stop buying your products because they don’t want to endorse your behavior. These days that behavior comes down to equal pay, diversity, and environmental health, to name a few. Please notice that features and benefits are no longer the only items on the list of customer expectations.
Now what happens if your company donates money to a Political Action Committee whose funds were used to elect representatives who challenge the very basis of democracy, the vote itself? Even though the vote is recounted, challenged in court, and certified? Even though there is no credible evidence of widespread voter fraud? Even though the incredible coordination that would be required to commit voter fraud at any scale is virtually impossible?
Just like any scandal, companies will lose customers who don’t want to contribute to the undermining of democracy by continuing to buy their products or services. It takes years to build a positive brand image, but it can be lost in an instant.
That’s what has been happening at an increasing rate over the past few weeks as big companies put their Political Action Committee donations on hold to protect their brand images. What were those elected representative thinking?
Did they think they could challenge democracy without credible evidence and still collect funds from companies that have to keep all their customers happy, including all their customers who voted? Many companies took action and fast! And now the offending elected representatives have lost a major source of funding! They simply underestimated the value of brand image (also known as reputation).
Brand Image Wins!
From a strictly business standpoint, you must always protect your brand image. That image is held by your customers and it includes their perception of your behavior. When you behave in a manner contrary to the expectations of the majority of your customers, you lose business. Period.
In the future, we hope that the businesses that donate to Political Action Committees will take the preemptive step of making their donations predicated upon a certain level of respect for the foundations of democracy. That would be the brand image that would attract our dollar! How about yours?