Protecting Your Brand’s Reputation

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By Lyndall Spooner

In today’s highly interconnected world, brands are grappling with the challenge of maintaining trust and loyalty among their customers. However, it is essential to recognize that brands have limited control over their reputation and consumer sentiment. The influence and control that brands once enjoyed have diminished significantly. Consumers now rely on a variety of sources, beyond what the brand itself says and does, to shape their opinions and validate their views.

There are four key voices that shape a brand’s reputation:

  • What your brand says and does, both in the past and present.
  • Actions of other brands in your industry, which can impact how your brand is perceived.
  • The reactions of consumers, who form their opinions based on their experiences and interactions.
  • The reactions of extreme but vocal minority groups, whose opinions can sway public perception.

While it may seem unfair, the actions of your competitors can have a direct impact on your brand. When a brand within your industry demonstrates poor integrity or values, it tarnishes not only their reputation but also casts a shadow on the entire industry. Negative media coverage tends to leave a lasting and deeper impression than positive news. It is crucial to recognize that blanket labeling of industries based on the actions of a few is mostly inaccurate but can have significant long-term effects.
For instance, consider the recent PwC scandal. The repercussions of PwC’s conduct not only harmed their own brand but also affected the entire “big four” accounting industry, leading to a broader inquiry into the use and conduct of consultants. Similar parallels can be drawn from other sectors, such as banking, aged care, media, and big tech, where the actions of a few have impacted the reputation of the entire industry.
Before publicly criticizing competitor brands within your industry, it is important to understand that consumers are likely to question your brand’s integrity in the event of a scandal.
The more aggressive you have been in attacking others, the more severe the retaliation and attacks on your brand will be when you face a similar issue.
In light of these challenges, what steps can brands take when a competitor goes rogue?

  • Prevention is key: Establish an industry body that ensures strong governance and adherence to a code of conduct. Encourage clients to seek partners who are members of this industry body, as it acts as a reliable third-party voice to validate trust in your brand.
  • Avoid disparagement: Refrain from gloating over the misdeeds of competitors or other businesses. Such behavior not only demonstrates poor taste but also indicates a competitive weakness and weak character. Focus on building walls around your brand, maintaining strong internal behavior standards, and addressing any areas of concern promptly.
  • Embrace integrity: Professional integrity and brand reputation should be considered the most valuable assets. Greed-driven behavior and unethical practices have no place in today’s business landscape. Building a successful long-term business requires prioritizing integrity as a core value and recognizing its significance for both employees and customers.

The Fifth Dimension’s trust model provides a compelling framework for brands to assess their trustworthiness. By delivering on promises and operating with honesty and ethics, brands can build trust with their customers and foster sustainable growth. Remember, your brand’s reputation is shaped not only by what you say and do but also by the actions of others. Protecting your brand’s integrity and being mindful of the impact of competitors’ actions will safeguard your reputation and maintain consumer trust for years to come.

About the author: Lyndall Spooner is the founder and CEO of Fifth Dimension.This is an opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of this publication.

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