Having a good reputation never happens by chance. The companies with the best reputations understand this and work very hard to achieve the good graces they establish with consumers. As importantly, they put processes and safeguards in place to protect their reputations from those who might want to tarnish or diminish it. It might surprise you to know that many of the top companies have internal divisions or hire online reputation management firms to ensure their brands do not get compromised. The reasoning is simple. A good brand standing is the backbone of most top companies. Once an attack on a brand, or bad circumstances happen that may jeopardize the brand, there needs to be quick and effective action taken or the brand may be damaged irreparably.
There have been many high profile situations where brands with great reputations have seen their fortunes fall because their brand was damaged.
Blackberry was a top phone maker up until about ten years ago with their phones the darlings of the business world because of their emphasis on business tools. However when the shift to smartphones with consumer focused features happened Blackberry ignored the trend. As Apple’s iPhone hit the market Blackberry maintained that its products were in a different market category but they missed the powerful shift in the desires of all mobile phone users (business and consumer), not realizing that even business phone users wanted the features that the iPhone perfected. Throughout, Blackberry stubbornly believed its cores customers would never switch. They leaned on the strength of their brand to be able to offer sub-standard products. In less than five years Blackberry only had its brand name to fall back on because its products were greatly outdated. As they continued to push its brand, even that lost confidence with consumers. Now consumers no longer trust the Blackberry name and its brand value has crashed.
Another example is the recent debacles of automaker Volkswagen who was found to be manipulating exhaust emissions on their diesel cars sold under the Volkswagen and Audi brands. Before their admission, Volkswagen had one of the most highly respected brands in the world and was top three in the automotive industry. Their admissions has dropped their brand name to one of the worst of any major company in the world and they are paying billions in fines and hundreds of millions to repair their brand reputation.
In contrast companies like Apple have a sterling brand reputation. They have built it by creating great consumer focused products and offer first rate service to their customers. Apple has built a reputation for delivering value, even while having the highest priced products in the industry. This often means that many products that are trendy or can create high volume sales never get created by Apple, but it also means that when they do release a product people believe it is important, so they buy it. Apple has used this foundation to enter many different product segments as a top brand. They are currently working on developing an automobile and we can expect that it will be a best seller, just like all of its other products.
There is no more respected company today than E-retailer Amazon.com who receives awards as the most respected company in the world. What they understand is that to win the trust of consumers your business must anticipate their needs and deliver them often before consumers realize what they need. Amazon has been a leader in providing the widest range of products to consumers in the history of retailing, and doing it with the lowest prices and greatest convenience. This strategy goes against every axiom in conventional retail which says you can deliver two of the big three (price, quality and convenience), but never all three. Amazon has been able to deliver this model across its range of products and services moving from building itself into the world’s largest E-tailer, to becoming the largest provider of web services (Amazon Web Services), an IPTV juggernaut (Amazon Prime), to creating its own successful line of Internet connected devices (Kindle and Fire). And through it all, the company has maintained a reputation for the highest quality and service.
In the end, the difference between companies like Apple and Amazon who have industry leading brands, and others like Blackberry and Volkswagon who struggle, is an emphasis on the needs of the consumers and letting those needs drive product development and innovation, while always maintaining the highest levels of customer service and quality. This combination of attributes creates a highly respected brand.