Controversially Invited

When you’re in business, the Number One Rule is to protect your brand.

Your brand is a being; it’s tangible. It has an identity. It has a voice. It has a reputation. It has a combination of characteristics that make it unique and important.

And same as any being, your brand can be liked, trusted, even revered — or disliked, doubted, and despised.

How do we ensure the former and prevent the latter?

By remembering that, with few exceptions, brand is tool that should represent professional services.

And also by remembering that your brand is not a platform for personal grievances.

Don’t Poop Where You Eat

Happy Hour

While most business owners and executives often remember that their brand represents them, too many forget that they represent their brand.

They draw lines between personal activity and professional behavior that the market does not. And when more than than half of US businesses have fewer than 4 employees (and 90% have fewer than 20), why would they? It’s eminently clear to the market that the overwhelming majority of professional brands are personal.

Does that mean John Doe must be destroyed in favor of JD Incorporated? Not at all.

What it means is that John should recognize that he represents JD Inc and shouldn’t do anything embarrassing — like get drunk at a business Happy Hour and start badgering people about politics. He shouldn’t hop on Facebook and attack his customers’ beliefs publicly.

In other words: he shouldn’t poop where he eats.

“Your Brand Is What People Say About You When You’re Not In the Room.”

When John forgets that his social media accounts are filled with business contacts, and starts discussing controversial personal views, suddenly his brand is usurped. No longer are people talking about John’s wonderful professional services; instead they’re talking about ideas that have nothing to do with his brand.

In the marketing world, we call that damage.

It’s true that some companies can survive — and even thrive — in controversy. Dan Cathy’s Chick-fil-A managed to see increased sales following a major branding catastrophe in 2012. Nike went full speed ahead with its advertisement commending Colin Kaepernick and ended up earning $6B. Lyft recently surpassed Uber downloads (for one day) after a shrewd political donation.

OMG

But more often, the damage is, well, damaging.

NFL, Papa Johns, Pepsi, Levis, IBM, Keurig, Walmart, American Apparel, and the list goes on. These companies hurt themselves, in some cases severely, by wading into controversy. Luckily, they were large enough to continue through depressing times. Is your business that big, or that lucky?

Grandma Was Right

If you’re looking for a simple guide to protecting your brand, it’s this:

  1. Remember that YOU are your brand, regardless of what the name under your logo says.
  2. Remember that YOU represent your brand and people are paying attention to you more than your logo.
  3. Remember that Grandma was right when she told you to keep your opinions about politics, religion, and sex to yourself. far far away from your business.

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