Leaders: How Valuable Is Your Brand?

By Gary Clayton

How much attention do you pay to your brand? Are you aware of the impact it has on your customers – and potential customers? Do you think through how small changes to your brand might affect their acceptance of your company?

Your brand is the image of your product or service in the marketplace. Your target audience looks to your brand to determine whether your offering is relevant to them and what expectations they have of your offering. Bottom-line, your brand determines whether or not the consumers want your offering. Brand management is an important leadership skill.

Brand expectations can change without your intention

Too often, leaders make changes to their brand without thinking through the full impact of the change. Here’s an example of a brand change failing my personal expectations: I am a regular donor to my local volunteer fire department, but something has happened that has drastically changed its image for me – and reduced my expectations of it.

In the 20+ years that I have lived in my neighborhood, it has been comforting to know that the fire house is only one mile from my house. I frequently drove past the firehouse and could see the fire engines through the doors. But that has changed.

Now, the building is empty and there is a for sale sign out front. There is no notice as to what happened. I was very upset when I first saw it. I’ve scanned through the fire company’s website looking for clues. There is no mention of the company closing or moving. The pictures still show the same building and the same fire engines. But a different address is listed.

It doesn’t feel like my fire department anymore

Your expectations of safety change just knowing there is a firehouse with engines in it.

Seeing the fire engines and firehouse changes your expectations of the company's capabilities.

I drove to the new address and found a new grey building with no garage doors facing the road, not even a window or a glass panel that would show the presence of any fire equipment on the site. It could be any warehouse building anywhere. It looks lifeless and the only indication of what it is for is a sign with the township name and “fire company” written on it.

Here is how the fire company’s brand has changed in my perception:

  • It doesn’t look like a fire company any more.
  • It looks lifeless, I can’t see any fire engines out front being washed or waxed.
    It has lost it’s unique identity (named after a lake less than ½ mile away from the old firehouse).
  • It is out of sight, down a road that leads to the township garage. Therefore, it is out of my mind.
  • There is nothing at the old building or its website to link it to its new location, it’s new reality.
    It is three to four miles away, no longer just a long walk away.
  • I no longer occasionally see or hear fire engines traveling through my neighborhood.

In short, I am struggling to relate to it. Will I donate to it in 2010? My expectations are that it will take another ten minutes for a fire engine to get to my house. It is no longer in my neighborhood and seems to have lost its name, its identity. It feels much less relevant to me. There probably were good reasons for the move, but donating will require me to be much more mindful than I have been in the past.

Don’t damage your brand

Leaders, your brand is very important. Be clear as to what you are doing when you play with your brand. You may lose your followers without realizing it. You communicate with your followers in many ways. Not all of them are verbal or written, but all of them affect your brand. All of them affect your success.

Gary Clayton has seen many first hand examples of how brand changes must be thought out carefully. Gary provides leadership coaching services to leaders and those who wish to become leaders in business and life.

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Categories : Vision