A strong brand does not necessarily equate with a strong reputation (Ettenson &Knowles, 2008: 20). By definition, a brand is the name given to a product in order to show ownership of the good. It is actually an identifiable name or sign assigned to a good in order to show the sense of ownership. In the market it is usually termed as logo, risk reducer and identity system among others. A brand is a distinguishing name or symbol with the likes of a logo, trademark or a package design. It is aimed at identifying the goods or services of a particular seller or sellers by differentiating the goods or services from those of the competitors. Reputation on the other hand, it is the result or rather the consequences of what one does, says and what other people say about an individual or an organization.
Brand identity system takes into account the attributes that influence the customers or rather attract consumers while making decisions to purchase. In consideration of what branding identity system entails it is clear that a brand is customer focused while reputation is companycentric. This is to suggest that, brands are meant to appeal to the customers in most cases while on the other hand, reputations covers more than what a brand means to a company or organization. In reality, a brand is based on what a product, service, or the company promises the customer and what the commitment of the company to the customers is (Elliott & Percy 2007, p.209).
Whereas brand has much to do with customers, reputation has to do with the credibility and the respect that an organization has among the broad set of constituencies inclusive of the employees, investors, regulators, journals and local communities. According to Ettenson &Knowles (2008), a brand is all about relevancy and differentiation in respect to the customer while reputation is about the legitimacy of the organization with respect to a wide range of stakeholders and therefore not limited to customers as it is in the case of brands.
A strong brand is the one which makes it possible to communicate the fact that the company is able to offer relevant and unique offerings in order to meet the needs of the customer. In fact, the strength of a brand largely depends on how it has succeeded to fulfill what it has promised to the customers (Klewes & Wreschniok 2009, p.327). Whereas this is the case for a brand effect, the reputation of a company is affected in variety of ways by several factors. Apart from the effects brought about by the strength of the management, innovativeness and financial performance, it is also affected by employer-employee relationship, efforts in workplace diversity, work ethics and commitment to the environment.
It is important to bring out models that have been in use to explain the issue of brand and reputation. In line with this point, there is the self expression model which is founded on the concept that some people use brands to express part of their personal identity. Fundamentally, the concept takes in that a person is what he or she has. This has been supported by Harley Davidson motorbike owners. In the same line of thought there is also the brand relationship model of branding which is based on brand personality through humanization of a particular product.
Customer based brand equity is a brand model presented by Keller. In this context, the knowledge possessed by consumers about a brand and the resulting effects the brand has on the consumers regarding the efforts of marketing is core of the given model. The concept of the awareness of the brand together with the brand image is key factors that are considered in the Keller’s model. Along with this point, there is also Aaker’s brand equity model which covers the awareness, loyalty, perceived quality, brand associations and other brand assets of priority in making of the brand equity (Shaw& Reed & Business Intelligence1999, p.141). In relation to this point, branding is meant to provide value to both the customer and the firm. As such, strong brand equity will result to great benefits to the firm along with high margins altogether. Along with this point, strong brand equity translates to a reduced sensitivity of the customers to the increases in price and it brings about trade leverage and the reduced impact of the competitor activity.
The question of how one can create and manage a strong brand has been of great concern as it is the desire of most of the businesses in the world. As a matter of fact, having a strong brand translates to great benefits both to the firm and the customers. In line with this point , creating a strong brand begins by creating a quality product that is able to outwit the other products in the same line (Fombrun, & van Riel 2004, p.9).
Arguably, the brand should be in a position to deliver a superior performance. As such, the brand’s singular distinction should be identified, a message defined, and the positioning of the brand in a proper manner in the marketplace. This entails issues of whether the brand is associated with the aspects of being the best in the market, fastest, the most luxurious and being the first in the market among other aspects as such.
Again in this context, if the brand happens to be the first in the particular category, it is possible to maintain that position for a long time. However, if the brand is not the first in the particular category, there is need for one to create a new category in order to succeed in the positioning of the brand. Besides this point, there is need for a brand to stay focused on one aspect of singular distinction so as afford a large market share as customers will come to a point of identifying with the brand owing to its distinct features (Holt 2004, p.95). Together with this point, it is imperative for the brand to be in a position to tap into the emotion of the target market and as such this is accomplished by means of developing attributes that are handy.
Another point to note is that across all communication channels, a brand image should speak in one voice, same style and same tone. Visually, through actions and verbally, the brand image should portray the value of the company. Additionally, it is expected that the brand image should then be marketed through all points of market contact. In the same line of thought, the brand promise to the target market must be lived in the sense that the brand image, positioning, and the value it promises to the target market is realized.
Along with this point, the experience of the customer by using the brand should match the claims and the promised value of the brand. It is important to continually measure the brand equity against competition and then keep on a continued refining of the brand in order to remain competitive in the market. Fombrun (2008) asserts that a reputation emanates from the distinction of a company along with the identity-shaping practices that ought to be maintained over time (p.28).
In essence, the practices entail the way the company is perceived, as credible, trustworthy, responsible and reliable among others as such. Needless to say, the company’s strong reputation has the ability to make it to gain a competitive advantage. In the same manner, a strong reputation may result from a unique product by the company of which it is usually negated by managerial practices which project the image and the identity of the particular company (Holt 2004, p.95). Drivers for a strong reputation in this sense are interlinked with the company’s practices which ought to reflect aspects of being trustworthy and reliable.
Management of the company should ensure that it takes in the social responsibility in all its activities inclusive of branding. This is to suggest that brand image ought to deliver what it promises in order to build on the strong reputation of the company if maintained over time. In essence, strong reputation of a company is driven by its activities and the management as whole. Haywood & Chartered Institute of Marketing (2005) states that reputation of a company and the brand reputations are one and the same thing. At the same time, consumers usually make decisions to purchase a brand on the basis of the value delivered, promises kept, expectation of its performance and in the larger perspective the value it adds to the lives of the customers.
Apart from this point, there are times when customers focus on the bigger picture of the company such as social responsibility, record in employee health, environmental policies and safety among others. This is the case whereby the issue of a strong reputation of the company comes into play. Basically, a strong brand contributes largely to the strong reputation of a company and as such this is accompanied the company’s general practices (Martin & Hetrick 2006, p.77). If a company is able to deliver its promises to the market as it is depicted by the brand image, then, it is inevitable that the reputation will improve. In addition, a continued pattern of the company living its brand, highly contributes to a strong reputation of it being reliable, credible, trustworthy and of great value.
Customer based brand Equity (CBBE) model has been a model commonly preferred by many organizations in the current corporate world. For instance, Nestle which is amongst the world’s leading businesses in food processing, uses the CBBE model as its main aim is to satisfy the needs of the customers (Haig 2006, p.30). In this sense, the model helps to answer the question of what makes a strong brand. It also explains how a strong brand is built and as such CBBE provides that the power of a brand is brought about by what customers have felt, seen, heard and learned about a particular brand resulting from their experiences with the brand over time. It is actually the differential effect that results from the brand knowledge on consumer response to the brand marketing.
On the other hand, there is the reputation of a company which has to do with the concept that is held in the minds or simply the cognitions of stakeholders. From a general point of view, a corporate reputation is defined by the perceived representations of the past actions of the company along with the future prospects of the company that most appeal to the overall constituents when compared with the other leading competitors (Davies & Chun 2003, p.61). In this regard, Nestle has employed the use of SPIRIT model of reputation along with CBBE model of branding.
So to speak, the experience with the brand has constituted to the aspect of the seeking to purchase the same brand. Moreover, the Nestle Company has learned how to keep its promises just as it is provided by the brand image. By so doing, the brand reputation along with the organization reputation of being credible has brought about stakeholders experience of reliable services.
In the same line of thought, the SPIRIT model of reputation covers four measures of reputation which involve the experiences that stakeholders have of a business (Falkenreck 2009, p.44).This is by means of listening and informing, non material and material benefits keeping promises, termination costs and shared values experience by various stakeholders. In relation to this point, the given measures work as antecedents of reputation as they entail the experiences of stakeholders in regard to the organization.
More to this point, the model measures the stakeholder experience in regard to the outside influence which entails what is said of an organization by the media and pressure groups outside the particular organization. This makes the antecedents of reputation in the sense that it refers to the stakeholders’ observations and experiences of the third parties in regard to the particular organization (Falkenreck 2009, p.44). Together with this point, there is also the issue of stakeholder emotional support as a determining factor of the way to support the particular business. As well, it entails both positive and negative emotions that a stakeholder may hold in regard to a company.
Furthermore, the model measures the behavioral support held by stakeholders in regard to the given organization. This is supported by the stakeholder of cooperation, retention, advocacy, extension and subversion. In this context, the behavioural support in the given forms makes the consequences of reputation since they have been conceptualized as intentions of the stakeholder to behave in a certain manner in the future. Making use of the SPIRIT model, the antecedents of the Nestlé’s reputation led to the consequence of the boycott led by the Baby Milk Action (Larkin 2003, p.132). The company was alleged for unlawfully developing prices that were unaffordable in the developing countries.
To a large extent, this caused great reputation damage until when the company accepted to debate on the issue publicly and thus change the antecedents brought about by media coverage (Morley 2002, p.103). In essence, a strong brand does not necessarily equate to a strong reputation and so to articulate, the Nestlé’s reputation was damaged by means of what the media and the pressure groups said in regard to the Nestle brands and in particular baby milk.
It is important to bring out the point that Nestle has continually been criticized for being in violation of a 1981 World Health Organization code which carries out the regulation of advertising of breast milk formulas. In this regard however, the Nestlé’s branding states that the mother’s milk is the best and the fact that baby Powder milk is just buy an alternative. Basically, Nestle ought to have corrected this in advance by making sure that consumers understand the brand in actuality.
Arguably, Nestle did not in the past consider that its reputation would damage its brand reputation. From this perspective, it can therefore be said that the Nestle company which had in the past won the trust of many through its strong brand reputation, in the 1970s it was challenged by activists who claimed that Nestle was violating the policy that called for mother’s milk to be the best. The claim managed to destroy Nestlé’s brand reputation and therefore it can be argued that the brand and corporate reputation are interlinked as they are the different sides of the same coin and one cannot do without the other (Foley & Kendrick 2006, p.3). Nevertheless, brand reputation contributes to an organizational reputation along with the fact that the reputation of the organization can contribute greatly to the brand reputation. Broadly speaking, Nestle boycotts resulted from the company’s negligence of reputation and concentrating on the brand. This is to suggest that although the two are different issues, the brand and corporate reputation should be taken good care of.
The implication of the case provided along with the interdependencies of brand and corporate reputation calls for organizational management to ensure that both brand and corporate reputations are strong. As well, social responsibility, how employees are treated, accountability in cases of crisis and general behavior of the organization in regard to health and environmental issues should be managed with great efficacy.