Mar 19, 2012

I Hear You Have Quite the Reputation

By Lori Braden, Vice President, Strategic Marketing 

Branding has become one of those corporate buzzwords that’s tossed around meetings, like best practices, synergy, or the ten-thousand-foot level. It sounds good and everyone uses it; but no one really knows what it means. We know our brand is important, and we know we should focus on strengthening it, but what IS it?

Brace yourself for this revelation: your brand isn’t your logo.

Sure, the logo is part of your brand, but your brand is much more than your logo.

Appearance…And So Much More

Logos and taglines are brand elements that most automatically associate with a brand. As consumers, we’re exposed to hundreds of brands on a daily basis. Artist and cultural anthropologist Heidi Cody created this American Alphabet to demonstrate how we can recognize a consumer brand just by seeing one of the letters.

See how many brands you can easily identify. If you want the answer key, you have to keep reading the blog!

tiffany-boxColor is also a brand element. Think pink – pink is synonymous with Susan G. Komen for the cure. Most women who receives a little blue box, know immediately the gift is from Tiffany & Co., a company who has trademarked its iconic blue.

Sound can be another brand element.  Southwest Airlines took a sound—the fasten-your- seatbelt ding—that is heard on just about every commercial flight, and made it part of their brand when they launched their successful, “DING. You are now free to move about the country” ad campaign.

These, and many other brand elements, elicit a feeling or expectation that is grounded in the consumer’s experience with the brand. It’s why some customers are loyal to it or why others avoid it at all costs.  Consider your immediate reaction when you see each of these brand names. I’ve shared my reactions.

U.S. Airways
Free shipping
Shoes...and fast
Fitness, sports, athletes
Cutting edge, cool

But It’s What’s on the Inside that Counts

In accounting terms, your brand is an intangible asset that can significantly influence your balance sheet. It permeates every facet of your operations and every member of your staff. It’s the promise you make to your customers and clients and how you deliver on that promise. In simplest terms, your brand is your reputation.

Over the last eight months, PICPA evaluated our brand. We wanted to know how members perceived us and what their expectations are. It forced us to be honest with ourselves internally as well as hear the good and bad from our members. Not only do we have a new logo and tagline, we have a renewed promise to members:

The PICPA preserves the legacy and propels the integrity of the CPA profession. Belonging to the PICPA, along with more than 20,000 members, you have the professional and personal support to refine skills, expand knowledge, connect with like-minded people, and achieve bigger and better things at every stage of your professional life.

What about your brand? Do you know how your clients or customers view your organization and what they think of your staff? Does your staff reflect the qualities that you pride your organization on and does it have the tools to deliver on its reputation? Reflecting on your brand can identify strengths, weaknesses, and growth opportunities.

Strike While the Branding Iron Is Hot

Even if you don’t have the budget or time to embark on a comprehensive brand audit, you should take away at least one thing from this post.

Every interaction with a client or customer is an opportunity to deliver or hurt your brand. How you answer your phone, the length of time it takes to respond to an e-mail, whether or not you arrive on time for a meeting, thank you notes after an event—all of these actions will reflect your brand.

Go ahead. You know you want to check your answers to the American Alphabet.

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Statements of fact and opinion are the authors’ responsibility alone and do not imply an opinion on the part of PICPA officers or members. The information contained in herein does not constitute accounting, legal, or professional advice. For professional advice, please engage or consult a qualified professional.