I believe in brands. I also adhere to the principal that the success of any endeavor -- business, charity, personal, or otherwise -- depends solely on perception, or how others see, think, and feel about said endeavor.
Look at branding from a personal level. Do you care how you look? Do you brush your teeth? Do you shower? Do you put on makeup? Do you brush your hair? Do you wear clothes that fit? Do you have friends who hold similar beliefs and ideals?
Conversely, how do you see others? Do you befriend those who are opposite or alike? Do you label? Are you aware of other’s habits, hygiene, and behavior?
The answers don’t matter, nor does it matter if you agree or disagree with the premise that we, as humans, shape the perceptions of how others view us in an effort to fit in somewhere. Sociologists have proven that we, as social animals, gravitate toward groups where we find comfort. Social by nature, we “brand or re-brand” our personal image based on where we feel accepted in respect to a certain group, even if that comfortable place is on the outside.
Businesses, however, aren’t perceived as the sum or amalgamation of their employees. Instead, they take on human characteristics, “living” as entities with goals and exhibiting behaviors we classify based on their actions (or lack thereof).
Goldman Sachs, for instance, was recently accused of having contributed to the recession in an effort to boost profits and fill corporate coffers. Once highly respected, Goldman Sachs can be described as include greedy, deceitful, unfair, immoral, irresponsible, disrespectful, and dishonest. However, 90 percent of their employees don’t fit these descriptors at all.
Most work at companies. We view our company from the inside out, attributing our personal experience with the company’s brand as a sum of the people with whom we work. Most don’t see our workplace leaders as evil, misguided, or irresponsible.
I’m sure that BP’s employees aren’t ashamed of their jobs despite the fact that BP will most likely go down in history as the source of the worst environmental disaster ever. They see the company as suffering due to a mishap, and most likely think of the company as a “good” place overall to work.
People don’t stay at jobs if they don’t believe in the brand, or if the brand doesn’t live up to their expectations. We will stick with poorly performing businesses if we believe in the brand, and the company “lives” the brand.
This is why branding won’t die. Establishing human traits like character and personality to an entity attributes to the success or failure of the company. While it may not happen immediately, companies with no image, or ones perceived poorly by consumers, don’t tend to stay in business long.