What's your corporate brand's legacy?

By Brad Dodge on July 1st, 2009

gloveI’ve been reflecting on Michael Jackson amid the deluge of media coverage that started last Thursday. I’ve talked about his life with my colleagues—many of whom weren’t even born when Michael hit stride. So, my version of the Michael Jackson brand represents a sum of experiences that spans nearly 40 years, and includes the young, the good, the bad, the black, and the not-so-black. Had I not experienced the early days, my perception of the brand would be very different than what it actually is. And like this post by John Quelch on the Harvard Business Publishing blog, there are ample and insightful ideas on building a personal brand. Our corporate brands face similar challenges. How do you measure your market’s up-to-the-minute perception of your brand?

Think about this, the perceptions of a brand are continually changing based on company image, marketing, recent news, Web presence, industry and market opinions, etc. If you’re a 10 year-old company, but someone just learns about you for the first time, how can their perception possibly include anything from earlier years?  They’ll see your brand for whatever it is now. Think about it. If your version of Jackson’s brand is 10 years old, you may most remember him as more of a “peculiar, androgynous person constantly surrounded by controversy.” If your version of him is 40 years old like mine is, you will likely remember the entire spectrum – from the young boy in the Jackson 5 through Thriller, Billie Jean, and the moonwalk debut on Motown 25, to his worldwide iconic status as one of the most successful and influential artists in pop music and culture. Those are two very different brands. For corporate brands in healthcare, the challenge is ensuring that the current brand that you’ve built in your market is an accurate representation of who you really are.Our takeaway as we’re trying to build formidable healthcare brands? Today?

  • Your brand is measured as the sum of all experiences by each individual in your market, NOT the total brand history.
  • Your brand is being shaped constantly. Consider this when you’re trying to reach new customers and retain existing customers. Those are two very different challenges.
  • You don’t control your brand. The market does. You can try to influence the market, but  it decides what your brand really is.
  • You can certainly leverage past successes or achievements, but it needs to be done in a very “today” kind of way. Don’t assume that something that happened when you had a 2% brand awareness makes any difference to the segment of the market that’s just now discovering you.
  • You don’t need to admit you thought platform shoes were cool for guys. Most of a corporate brand’s past can stay in the past. As you continually shape your brand, leverage the strengths of your earlier brand, and distance yourself from its weaknesses.
  • Try to find your industry’s moonwalk or sequin glove. For a brand to be memorable, it has to be unique.