People who have been in marketing a long time (15+ years) often struggle with the fact that they no longer own their business’ brand. The audience does.

What people say about your business is more widely believed than the carefully crafted message you’re sending out.

And that hurts to admit.

It would be so much easier if we could just go back to the Madison Avenue days where well-crafted and polished written pronouncements reigned supreme. But today, no one is buying what you’re saying. At least, not over your reviews.

So what’s a business to do?


How Can Your Business Be a Larger Part of Shaping Its Brand?

  1. Ask for reviews from everyone but especially loyal customers.
  2. Remove the friction and make it easy to review you by placing links on your page or adding a link to a thank you email.
  3. Go over and above in service. Extraordinary work elicits more reviews than simply meeting expectations. However, bad experiences are written about more often than good ones. Empower employees to rectify bad experiences before they become a bad review.
  4. Use a tone that fits who you want to be and who your audience thinks you are. You need to marry the two concepts or work to rebrand entirely. Rebranding is a challenge unto itself.
  5. Decide what role you want to play in the buy local arena. If you’re a small, local business there may be several entities that can help you with your branding like the chamber of commerce or a Main Street (or downtown development) organization.
  6. Understand what people are saying about you and proceed from there.

That last point requires a more in-depth explanation. In an article on Inc. recently, Facebook showed what little it knows about its brand. It serves as an example of what not to do in branding.

Facebook has successfully purchased several quasi-competitors over the years and has kept those apps (Instagram and WhatsApp) separate from their larger brand. They have done this so successfully that even those disenchanted with Facebook as a platform and its use of data (they were fined $5 million for violating user privacy), have left it to go to Instagram. It’s important to point out that many people don’t even realize they’re not leaving Facebook at all when they do this.

But this will soon change.

Facebook is now calling attention to their holdings by branding them all under one umbrella. They’re taking well-respected and liked apps and potentially saddling them with privacy concerns.

Sure, Facebook is still the most popular social media site but that’s not a position etched in concrete. By adding the parent brand to these other apps, they run the risk of negatively impacting their successful brands to make the design department happy.

While your business may not have all the facets that Facebook does with so many smaller companies underneath it, you can take away a very valuable lesson from this example.

When it comes to your brand, your audience is what matters. If they believe a certain thing about you, making them feel otherwise requires more than you simply saying so. You have to give them a reason to believe and join you in your mission. If you don’t, their version will trump yours.