What is your company brand? What is your personal brand? In business, people often confuse the company logo with the brand and assume they are one in the same. But actually, the logo is just a symbolic representation of what your brand has come to mean in the minds of your customers and potential customers.
The Brand Is the Relationship
Put very simply, your brand is your relationship with your consumers or stakeholders… your reputation. It is the level of expectation that has been set and will continuously be renegotiated upon each new interaction with the consumer.
To illustrate, think of what your personal “brand” is as an individual. As an individual, are you seen as trustworthy, intelligent and responsible? Or do you in fact have a negative brand? Are you seen as rude, combative or lazy?
Based on the long or short term relationship that has been established, you have set up a certain level of expectation for current and future interactions with others. If your reputation is positive, you will have to work less to continue the relationship. Even if you have small slips in your performance as a friend, spouse, family member or colleague, your past positive relationship will give you the “benefit of the doubt” and the relationship can survive.
However, if your reputation or personal brand is based on negative previous experiences, even if you seek to change that reputation and improve, you will have to work that much harder to overcome people’s bad opinion of you.
Branding In Business
Now that’s your personal brand. And ones personal brand can certainly have an impact on ones business brand. For some they are one in the same. Just ask Martha Stewart.
As a business person or professional in any industry, you should be aware of your organization’s brand. And don’t think your stakeholders won’t remind you of what they think it is.
Why I love IKEA
I’m reminded of an incident when I was in my twenties and furnishing my apartment, and I had to remind IKEA of their brand.
I had bought two tall black cabinets to put in my dinning room. I got them back to my apartment and began to assemble them. I had bought assemble-it-yourself furniture before, so I was pretty secure in my abilities to put them together.
I got to the point where I was supposed to put on the doors and I came to a problem: there were no pre-drilled holes to put on the door hinges. Even a muscle man would not have been able to get these screws into that black laminate covered MDF frame of the doors. Frustrated but determined, I stopped the fruitless efforts and put the project aside. I’d have to borrow or rent a power drill; which I did a few days later.
Being a twenty-something, not mechanically inclined, individual, my efforts at using an unfamiliar power tool were not exactly stellar. So after a couple of even more frustrating tries I gave up and called IKEA.
The Specs Don’t Call For Pre-Drilled Holes Ma’am
Now IKEA’s customer service representatives were more than civil and respectful, but they were also being absolutely no help what so ever. When I told them my item didn’t have pre-drilled holes, more than one representative told me, “Ma’am, the specifications for that item do not call for pre-drilled holes.” As if I were calling them because I thought the manufacturers had simply forgotten to drill the holes. And this is where I had to remind them of their brand.
I reminded them that one of their major brand identities (no I’m sure I didn’t put it that way, but I was close to saying this) was the ease of assembly of their products. According to them, I should be able to put together all of their items with a screwdriver, a hammer, and that ubiquitous little “L” shaped tool that they supply. If the item required me to use a drill to assemble, that went against the established promise they had made to me the consumer.
They offered me the option of bringing the items back to the store of course. But since I was in Delaware and the two closest IKEA stores were at least 45 minutes away from me, and the two cabinets were already mostly assembled except for the doors so they wouldn’t fit back in my little car, AND because I still wanted my cabinets, that was not an acceptable solution for me.
Truth be told, I really hadn’t a clue how to resolve this situation. I wanted them to figure out how to make me happy. I can’t remember if I came up with the ultimate solution or they did, but I do remember that I ended up speaking with a supervisor. Since the front line reps were no help, I asked to speak to a supervisor, because I learned from my parents early on, “Never accept no from someone who doesn’t have the authority to say yes in the first place.”
IKEA Customer for Life
So once I heard the same line about the specs and the lack of pre-drilled holes from the supervisor and she realized I wasn’t going to let them off the hook or the phone that easily, she finally said the words that will make me an IKEA customer for life…”Ma’am, we will send a carpenter to your home to assemble the cabinets for you at no charge.”
Needless to say, that option made me very happy, and even if it wasn’t exactly the solution that was most cost effective, it was the one that saved my relationship with them. It saved my opinion of their brand.
That was more than a decade ago and I’m still talking about it and still purchasing from IKEA. And even more important…those cabinets have seen two other apartments and are now sitting in the lower level office of my home.