Global banking giant Goldman Sachs is making headlines for an off kilter business move that weakened its strong brand and the St. Louis Cardinals are fighting to hang on the respect of fans in the wake of an FBI investigation into alleged hacking into a competitor's database.
Known as the bank of the powerful and privileged, Goldman is reported to be working on a new business line: providing loans that can help average consumers consolidate your credit card debt or remodel your kitchen. Really? Talk about tone deaf. Just like that, a brand built over 146 years takes a serious hit to its credibility.
Meanwhile, the Cardinals, a brand with a stellar reputation for integrity, is suffering the consequences of a disconnect in stated values and actions. While only time will tell if the accusations of database hacking are true, the damage done to the franchise's reputation will take years to repair.
For both organizations, a successful plan of action must include a complete understanding of how any and all options can impact both the brand and reputation of the organization. I don't know enough about how either of these two entities is organized to offer a bet on whether this will happen or not, but I do know that in general, there's a split in the way companies build and manage their brand and reputation. The lack of strategic integration between brand and reputation management is a problem that permeates most businesses.
On one hand, businesses invest precious capital and resources to build a competitive brand. This is in the purview of the marketing and advertising departments that rely on an outside advertising agency to help them develop positioning, value propositions and advertising campaigns. Their job is to build relationships, create customer loyalty and ultimately sustain profitable growth.
On the other hand, a company's reputation is managed through public affairs or corporate communications. They communicate with the media, analysts, shareholders, employees, government, communities and special interest groups. Public affairs people spend their time playing offense by building goodwill, as well as defense in the form of crisis management.
What's amazing is how little time these two groups spend working together.
There seems to be an ongoing battle between the two to co-opt each other's sphere of influence by claiming that reputation is just a dimension of the brand, or when managed correctly, a strong reputation is the only thing that a company needs.
Most marketing plans don't include a reputation component, and most corporate communications plans don't adequately consider brand and marketing issues.
But both disciplines are crucial to the success of any organization and integrating the two will only enhance the performance of the company.
Brand and reputation are two sides of the same coin and must be managed together.
It doesn't matter whether a company leads with branding or reputation as its principal marketing effort. What matters is that the company effectively integrates and leverages both disciplines. Our responsibility as professionals and practitioners is to break down the silos to optimize the performance of the company. Let's start building the bridge.
Once corporations take a more enlightened view by understanding that brand and reputation are inextricably linked, they will be able to earn customer loyalty, attract better talent and create sustainable growth.
It's too late for Goldman Sachs and the Cardinals get ahead of their brand and reputation issues but it's not too late to your organization to take control of your brand and reputation by crossing the bridge to strategic integration.