- Marketing executives often look for that one big brand building activity that will catapult the company’s reputation into the stratosphere, such as names on sports arenas, pricey event sponsorships, and broad reaching brand campaigns.
- But before you even begin thinking about investing in big ticket items, I recommend you begin by thinking small and invest your limited resources looking at your company’s reputation from the perspective of your current or prospective clients.
- Go online. Do your homework. Encourage your team to do the same. Then document the results put a plan in place to clean up your online reputation before you start thinking big.
I am always surprised at the amount of money companies invest in brand campaigns while completely ignoring fundamental brand enhancing strategies that cost virtually nothing to execute. I’m equally awestruck at the minimal attention paid to a number of easily accessed postings on web and social sites that if left unchecked can completely destroy a company’s reputation.
All too often executives look for that one big brand building activity that will catapult the company’s reputation (as well as their careers) into the stratosphere. Names on sports arenas, pricey event sponsorships, and broad reaching brand campaigns are just a few examples of the big ticket plays that more often than not leave brand managers scratching their heads or worse yet, unemployed. It happens time and time again. Why? We want to believe in the brand illusion. Like a mirage in the desert, many big ticket brand plays look like a much needed oasis in the desert from a distance. Unfortunately, and usually too late, when we reach that oasis it’s nothing like we expected.
I’m not saying that all big ticket brand building activities should be ignored. Sometimes that oasis is just that – an oasis! With the right research and insights, a brand manager can realise excellent returns on these investments. But that assumes time and effort is invested in researching the opportunity and understanding the target audience prior to making the investment, a step too often ignored or underplayed. It also assumes your marketing team knows how to leverage the event to extract maximum exposure and goodwill from the investment.
But before you even begin thinking about investing in big ticket items, I recommend you begin by thinking small. Rather than send your marketing team or agencies scouring for some major event to sponsor, first invest your limited resources looking at your company’s reputation from the perspective of your current or prospective clients. Start by simply going to Google and typing your company name. Look closely at what comes up. Is it your company or some other brand? Also look at the paid search sections to see if any of your competitors are targeting you and how. Now click on the news section at the top. What are reporters saying about your company? Click on the articles and read the comments. Now click on the images. What images are associated with your brand? Finally, go to the video section. And once you’re done with Google, go to Yahoo, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and as many of the highly visited and viewed social sites as possible. Do your homework and document the results.
Next, take the time to visit your own web site or sites and sign up for all of your own marketing and social media programs. Add your name to all of your company’s contact lists. Then monitor the quality and quantity of the communications you receive. Watch your company through the eyes of your customer. What you’ll likely find out about your company may surprise you.
We went through this exercise and discovered numerous misrepresentations and misleading information about our company. In cases where we signed up for our own programs, we discovered that nothing was being communicated. Apparently our Marketing and Customer Relations Management teams were not communicating with each other so the events we were sponsoring, the ones in which we created cool web applications inviting guests to sign up and learn more, were actually doing more harm than good by creating an expectation that was not being fulfilled.
As we looked closely at all our findings, we also uncovered a number of difficult but true facts about our customer service that had been in our corporate blind spot for years. We had always thought our company’s brand was second to none and that our customers’ perceptions of our company were nothing less than spectacular. By investing a little time and almost no money, we discovered the true was far from our reality.
Immediately we jumped into action cleaning up misinformation and contacting companies that had incorrectly posted false images, videos or statements about our company. Sometimes the effort paid off and sometimes it didn’t. Not every company or person we contacted was willing to work with us, but most were and we found the improvements we achieved in the quality of information about our brand to be well worth the time invested.
We also began formulating new practices and policies to improve our customer service to stay on top of future issues. We also connected our Customer Relations Management and Marketing teams and we improved our coordination with our customer relations and PR teams to resolve issues before they became viral problems.
This process wasn’t nearly as exciting or newsworthy as sponsoring a football league, which incidentally we also did, but it was probably the most important and least costly investment to ensure our brand building activities were structured upon a solid foundation. Yes, big ticket items can provide big returns. But it’s the little things that too often go unnoticed that can have a negative impact to a company’s image and completely negate all of the positive equity that has been built through years and years of good brand building activities.
So my recommendation is to always start by thinking small. Look at your company through the eyes of your clients and prospective clients. Go online. Do your homework. Encourage your team to do the same. Then document the results put a plan in place to clean up your online reputation before you start thinking big. I’m confident you’ll eventually find the returns of your big investments to be much better and less risky if you do.