Is brand what we want it to be, or what others say it is?

I posted my thoughts on the meaning of "reputation" and "brand" on the Corporate Communications and Reputation group at LinkedIn, which sparked an interesting flow of ideas and perspective:

Nick Taylor • Reputation is made up of three dimensions, and is, essentially, the “intellectual capital of an organisation (i.e., not the book value). The first dimension is identity – what we present ourselves as. This is typically what a brand is about (logos, values, positioning). The second dimension is image, which is almost the reverse, the opposite. It is what stakeholders see and feel from their perspective. The third dimension is personality. This is the reality of the brand seen through actions, not words, and is a real contributor to brand perception and overall reputation. So brand is an element of intellectual capital.

Jerry Thompson • Brand is the promise of value defined and offered to an organization's stakeholders. Reputation is awareness and understanding – by those stakeholders – of how well that promise is being kept, based on actions taken by the organization each and every day.

Martin Liptrot • I agree with Jerry. The brand is the promise; reputation is how well you are perceived to be living up to it. The other key difference is about ownership – while brand is tightly governed and controlled from the centre out, in the corporate voice, consistent iconography, etc. – reputation is subjective and truly in the eye of the beholder. It is possible to have a great reputation with consumers and analysts but a rotten one with community and employees, for example. That is the bit that senior executives sometimes struggle with; it isn’t a linear relationship.

Jon Harmon • Interesting comments, gentlemen.

But I'm not sure I would still assert that brand is what we say it is. More and more, brand is what those "out there" say it is; reputation, of course, always has been determined by "the others."

Today, a myriad of conversations, in social media as well as in "real life," determine the texture and shape of brand. (I'm thinking more of product brand or corporate brand than one's personal "brand," but the principle is the same.) When the branding put out by a company does not square with the branding determined by the social conversation, the dissonance can render the company's efforts ineffectual and wasted or, worse, counter-productive. And when the failed branding becomes the butt of jokes or scorned as intentionally deceptive, the company's reputation takes a hit as well.

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