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Creating a Brand that is Authentic, Resilient and Disaster Proof

Samantha Hartley
Aug 18, 2007
Back when her unpopular TV show, "The Apprentice," was on the air, Martha Stewart's company lost 40% of its value. As the face (and name) of the company, people were clearly turned off by the experience of her in the "you're fired" role.

Until then, we'd seen Martha striving for perfection in cooking, home decorating, entertaining, gardening and many other domestically oriented areas, all while cooing her catchphrase, "It's a good thing." We'd heard rumors she was a little testy behind the scenes, but who cares? I'd be cranky too if it meant my pies would turn out perfectly.

The bottom line in marketing terms was that her brand got dented in this experience, although I suspect it will rebound. Why? Because she has built...

An Authentic, Resilient Brand.

I'm not sure how many domestic divas can go to prison and still maintain their air of elite perfection, but somehow Martha did it.

Which other notable brand shot itself in the foot, only to spring back stronger than ever?

Coke Was It!

Coca-Cola was tarnished by the New Coke debacle in the 80's but today occupies the top position in the list of the world's most valuable brands.

HP (Hewlett-Packard) even had a "Board Leak" scandal, but it did not seem to affect sales. Like the other brands, HP is an incredibly respected brand that was able to withstand temporary trouble without hurting the company's long-term performance.

What Makes A Brand Authentic And Resilient?

What we know of great brands is that they are trouble-resistant and resilient IF they have authentic value. Authentic value is seen in a track record of delivering on your promise, consistently, over time. It's also about providing that which no one else can to a target audience that feels you understand their needs and exceed them.

Brands are resilient when those who feel loyal to them will tolerate small missteps, because the brand has made a difference in their lives. It's like hearing a rumor about someone and saying, "What? Nonsense. I find that impossible to believe."

People who feel a great loyalty to Walt Disney Company probably will not blame the brand for accidental deaths on park rides. One bad film from my favorite director certainly will not cause me to stop seeing his films. A single missed deadline from a vendor would rarely cause you to terminate him.

Just as in personal relationships, those who know you best and trust you will forgive you if you make a mistake or two. The key is creating goodwill and trust. I call that goodwill a brand: the experience I've had, as your client, of the best you have to offer and my trust (or expectation) that you will continue to deliver that value.

Now, how do you create authentic, resilient brands in your small business?

A Thousand Small Gestures

Michael Eisner, former CEO of Disney said, "A brand is a living entity - and it is enriched or undermined cumulatively over time, the product of a thousand small gestures."

A thousand small gestures. Doesn't it make sense that if, out of a thousand small gestures, one of them is inconsistent, my brand could still survive? However, if 200, or even 20, were out of character, then my value would be undermined.

Every interaction with your brand creates - or destroys - brand value for your company. Whether with you or your employees, your product or service, stationery or signs, storefront or office, your brand is affected. That's why it's so critical to examine all these touch points of your business to see what kind of experience you're delivering.

Anyone (and anything) working on behalf of your brand must be delivering the value you promise - every single time.

Experiences that meet or exceed customer expectations greatly enhance the value of your brand and build resilience. Consistently positive experiences can ensure customer loyalty and spark word-of-mouth, an incredibly effective and profitable form of marketing.

Brand-Building To Do List:

1. Work to understand your authentic value from the point of view of your intended audience.

2. Examine the "touch points" of your brand. Are they consistently delivering the experience your clients expect?

3. Initiate one new, small gesture this week. How can you deliver more of your authentic value to your intended audience with your brand?
About the Author
Samantha Hartley of Enlightened Marketing helps socially responsible entrepreneurs who are struggling with peaks and valleys in their businesses to generate a consistent stream of new, profitable clients. For FREE marketing tips sign up for our eZine at http://www.EnlightenedMarketing.com
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