Brand Poison




What is a brand?

When you buy a Ferrari, you have specific expectations of what you’re getting.   Those expectations are very different from ones you’d have if you chose to buy a Subaru instead, even though they’re both cars.

Companies  have brands.  People have brands, too:  their “personal brand”.

In both cases, your brand is your reputation.  It’s the promise of the value you can and will deliver.

Some things will enhance your brand and your value.

For example, do you remember this dress?


2009 Inauguration gown

For little known fashion designer Jason Wu, having First Lady Michelle Obama wear it to the 2009 inauguration skyrocketed him to success.

People create emotional connections to things; it’s what we do.  We are creatures of association.

As the owner of  your brand, you have to be aware and vigilant that the connections that others make are aligned with your promise.

If you don’t, you run the risk of poisoning your brand and destroying your reputation.

This includes the big stuff and the small stuff.  Case in point:

This week, I was online doing some research on trust for a forthcoming  article.

One of the organizations I visited is one of the largest leadership consultancies in the world.  It’s market niche is trust.  They offer books, training,  keynotes, coaching, consulting all around trust.

Many of their webpages include inspirational quotes on trust from famous and/or historical figures.  

One of the pages had this quote:

“Whether you’re on a sports team, in an office or a member of a family, if you can’t trust one another there’s going to be trouble.”

Reasonable enough.

Then I read who said it:

Joe Paterno.

Yes, that Joe Paterno.

Head Football Coach of Penn State University, who was fired for hiding evidence (and more)  regarding an assistant involved in a child sex abuse scandal.

Is this the emotional association that this consultancy wanted me to have?

I don’t think so.  But I had it nonetheless.

My first reaction:

Oops.  Awkward.

You’re the “leaders in trust”, and you still have a quote on your website two years after this scandal broke?  How much do I trust you to keep track of your own messaging?   

When it comes to your brand, be intentional.  How does each of your interactions build your brand?

Your reputation is at stake.  

What’s your personal brand?  

What emotional associations do people have with your brand?  

What’s the impression that you are leaving?    

Are you sure?

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