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If reputation is the word that could replace brand in a conversation between yourself and your customer, why is it that most small businesses don’t get branding right? From my experience, it hinges on information fed to them by the graphic design industry – that branding is all about changing your visual image. A rebrand to these people is changing your logo and marketing materials.

Brand is so much more than that. Your visual image is definite a part of your brand. It is the face of your brand. It’s probably the public’s first exposure to it. And because everyone has a brand whether they desire one or not, a lot of factors determines that brand or “reputation” in the marketplace.

Perception is a major trait that customer rely on to help them determine what to purchase. Their perception of your brand determines whether they can trust you, how they judge your value, it even validates (or not) your expertise. That perception they hold so close doesn’t necessarily have to be true. Remember – it’s THEIR perception based on a reputation they have built in their consciences over time.

Recently Chevy ran a commercial, where they showed a focus group of “real people” not actors and had them choose car logos based on certain attribute. For instance, when asked which brand was safest, most people chose high-end luxury brands. Of course, the questions were skewed in that the answer for any positive attribute was Chevy. What should be alarming to Chevy though was that most people did NOT choose Chevy first. Their perception was something else.

Changing negative perceptions is time consuming and expensive. Chevy took a chance with this commercial. They got their point across, but if the commercial viewer took it one step further and asked WHY didn’t we choose Chevy first, this is where the branding problems rise to the surface. What in their brand (reputation) is holding them back? While all the right answers to the questions were Chevy, other, higher-valued brands owned those positions.

That is your challenge.

Does your small business brand own positions you know to be true or are they owned by your competition? What are you doing to correct these perceptions and reclaim that reputation? If your answer is “a flashy logo and pithy slogan” then my guess is you’re going to be playing catchup for a long time. Get used to someone else owning your position!

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