Whatever some may say, Brand is not Reputation (and Reputation is not Brand)

By Ann Binnie.

I feel the urge to make a “statement of the bleeding obvious”, or at least start a bit of a dialogue about what may, or may not be, self evident.

What’s pushed me over from inertia to action – putting digit to keyboard – is the sloppiness with which these terms are elided without apparently serious thought. Treating them as both the same or interchangeable leads to confusion at best and duplication of effort and resource allocation at worst.

I’m primarily addressing myself to corporate Brands here (rather than product Brands, though I appreciate that in some circumstances the product and the corporate entity might share a name and identity).

Let me draw the distinction as I see it.

  1. The corporate Brand is the total entity – its purpose, its reason for being, its distinctive place in the business universe; it is what consumers consume, investors invest in and governments regulate; it needs to be the best it can be in order to compete effectively; its differentiated offering is key
  2. The corporate Reputation is what underpins that activity – its way of working, its processes, transparency of its reporting procedures, how it treats its workers and suppliers; it needs to be the best it can be in order to be esteemed by all its stakeholders; its integrity is key
  3. Thus the corporate Brand has category characteristics, which it tries to excel at, disrupt or challenge; Reputation has generic characteristics which it must adhere to at a basic level in order to operate and ideally it should excel at those characteristics
  4. Corporate values typically speak the language of Reputation, not Brand (which is why they’re so similar, think: trust, integrity, care, sustainable)
  5. I like to think of Reputation in terms of virtues, or at least striving for virtues: all Reputation attributes relate to trying to be good, virtuously run organisations
  6. Purpose (in old-school speak, vision and/or mission) is defined by the Brand; Reputation supports that purpose, it does not define it
  7. Reputation is always viewed as fundamentally on the good to evil scale, and you need to be on the side of the angels
  8. Without a corporate Brand, you don’t have a corporate Reputation

Do you agree? Can you add to this debate? I’d love to hear your views. Contact me at abinnie@tovera.consulting or add your comment below.