So what is brand image? Well, think about a Rolex watch. Then, think about how you’d feel owning a Rolex watch. Then, think about why you’d feel that way. Those feelings, whatever they are, are your image of the Rolex brand. Your perception of how good (or bad) a brand of watch they sell.
The problem with brand image is that brand image starts being built by consumers from the first time they see the first mention of your company.
Let’s take BP Oil, for example. Granted, this is an extreme example, but imagine if the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico was the first you’d heard of the company. –And now it’s all back in the news, up front and personal, when I bet BP wishes it would just… disappear.
So now, BP has a problem with their brand image. I mean, oil is oil, right? BP petrol (as the UKs like to say) probably isn’t any better or worse than, say, Conoco. Yet, the stockholders became unsure about how steady a company BP was and stocks started dropping. On top of that, people began picketing the gas stations that ran BP gas.
You see, the consumers’ vision of the BP company, culture and product became very, very bleak. Their brand image became a walking skeleton, thanks to content outflow like this:
“Tony Hayward, the beleaguered chief executive of BP, has claimed its oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is ‘relatively tiny’ compared with the ‘very big ocean’.” – “BP boss admits job on the line over Gulf oil spill,” The Guardian
An article in the New York Times further pointed to the stand that BP took:
“Mr. Hayward and the company have repeatedly played down the size of the spill, the company’s own role in the April 20 explosion of the Deepwater Horizon, and the environmental damage that has occurred. At the same time, they have projected a tone of unrelenting optimism despite repeated failures to plug the well.”
The company even went so far as to try and hijack the search results by buying up several related search terms. It’s ironic that the CEO was pushing a company culture of “safety.”
Now, you may be thinking, “Gabriella, what does all this have to do with brand, and culture, and content?” Simply this: the content they put out didn’t build a positive brand image. It didn’t go to support their supposed company culture. Instead, it was a cover-up; it was fake, it was lies, and consumers are getting smart enough to sniff these things out.
You Can’t Fake Culture; You Have to Live It
You can’t tell people you run a fun company and then have workers buried in tiny, depressing cubicles. –And believe me, if you’re projecting a fun brand image and your consumers find out your employees are working in sweatshops, a whole bunch of unpleasantness will can hit the fan.
This is something Nike knows well. It was quite a shock to find out that Nike, a company that advertises “Just Do It” and promises the not-so-subliminal feeling of freedom, used sweatshops and child labor to make its products. Tsk, tsk, Nike.
However, Nike turned it around. They said, publicly (i.e. with content, whether verbally with speeches or non-verbally with the written word), that they were changing the company culture. – And then they did it.