I was driving home and, sadly, was behind a slow driver. I was tired, hungry and wanted to get home as soon as possible. That wasn't possible with the slow, weaving driver in front of me. His weaving made it evident that he was not putting his full attention to the task of driving. He was driving slower than the posted speed limit, so he wasn't reading signs.
I realized that the driver's lack of attention to road signs was like a company so intent on daily business that it missed signs that its brand was loosing its position in the marketplace. Weaving to respond to daily pressure of deadlines and distractions takes focus off of the target of managing brand positioning.
Driving a car requires multi-tasking. Managing your brand is more difficult. You have to anticipate what is around the bend while watching for hazards, keeping a consistent speed and responding to sudden changes. You can control the information presented to the public but not how they will respond. Small local companies are guilty of ignoring their reputation and failing to see the potential value of growing their name recognition. These businesses pay attention to customer service but don't see the influence they can have if they stop being funnel focused. Mary Sue Easter Eggs, Old Bay, Herr's and Len the Plumber are all examples of local brands that have klout and compete with national brands. Old Bay is now available acros the US. In the 70's and 80's people who moved out of Maryland would beg family members or friends to ship them can of Old Bay.
Who is responsible?
Everyone in the organization should be trained to be ambassadors. Your internal reputation drives employee enthusiasm. The external reputation is the result of the images and messages delivered through marketing efforts and your employees. The owner, President and Chairman are steering and setting the pace. The consumer may never have interaction with the management level of the company but smart owners realize the value of the name can be more improtant that the product or service it signifies. They will be the ones pushing for innovative marketing to build and retain impression in the market.
Each customer touch point whether it is packaging, advertising or customer relations impacts product reputation. Marketing budgets put restraints on what can be done but there are examples of simple ways that help grow customer relations for your brand. Everyone cannot have the budget of Coke but every company should learn branding from Coke. Look for unique ways to speak personally to your audience. Including "Good Morning Beautiful" headline inside an egg carton is highly likely to put a smile on someones face.
Innovative marketing can create a buzz that grows and instigates copy cats. Target broke onto the department store scene when Kmart and Ames were struggling and had an aging customer base. They didn't have anything unique. They delivered the product depth of their aing counterparts but they made it youthful. Target created an impression of being new. On the surface the stores were new, clean and bright. The marketing was upbeat and targeted younger shoppers. They filled a niche that the others failed to see.