In light of the recent controversy involving a cast member of a reality show on a cable television network, I’ve been thinking a lot about the association between branding and public image. As it was put so eloquently by a commenter on Facebook- a brand is more than a logo or corporate colors. It is how a brand’s customers think of the brand.
As a graphic designer, I will say that, yes, a business’ logo matters; as do corporate colors. They are important tools that help the company stand out. However, in the end, they are only symbols that evoke a business’ values. These values can sometimes be dictated by industry, but often they are part of the ‘personality’ of the business. This is one of the reasons why many branding experts say customer reviews are so important. They are part of the process of building a brand’s reputation..
The truth is, as consumers we like to use our purchasing power to support brands that reflect our personal values and ethics. This preference becomes especially strong when we have many choices and there are few real differences between products. It is also why there is such a scandal when a company’s violation of their perceived values becomes public knowledge. This sudden, unexpected separation of public perception and the truth causes many devotees of the brand to lose trust and start to consider switching brands
Unfortunately, the old adage of guilty by association is quite true in the business world. So, when a company representative, such as a key executive, is involved in a scandal, it reflects not just on the individual, but on the company where they work and often on the partner business’ surrounding the company in question. Often, quickly and clearly disassociating from those involved in the scandal is the easiest form of damage control for partner brands. The company’s themselves have a harder time. There are ways for a brand to recover from a scandal, but this process can take a long time and often they never do fully recover.
Let me put this into perspective and give an example. As we are seeing with the recent reality show incident, a celebrity is caught doing something ethically or legally unacceptable, the violation comes out on national television, and the celebrity begins losing sponsors and endorsement deals. In response, the celebrity “disappears” from the public eye for a while and then reemerges with a tell-all interview of some kind. The celebrity also is shown doing things that “atone” for their violation, such as community service. Either the celebrity can reinvent or repair their image or they can’t.
To bring this all back around to graphic design, when I begin the logo design process I often ask clients to tell me about what their business does and what values they want their business to represent. As I said at the top of the post, a logo is a symbol that evokes the business’ values and ethics and how they want their customers to perceive them. Ask your self: How do your customers perceive your business? What does your logo say?