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Brand reputation can be damaged in minutes and take years to repair

call out branding that fails to reflect market context. That can be done by providing advance communication about overall brand strategy, by asking local managers if they detect any misalignments between the proposed branding and local conditions, and by supporting locallyled strategy execution. Nestlé is a good example of understanding context. Their country-specific websites feature common worldwide themes followed by unique homepage messages, native languages and highlights of initiatives that resonate with local markets. The effort to combine a common global identify with local tailoring signals that Nestlé understands the importance of being contextually sensitive to its markets.

Don’t just measure, create meaning

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) can be counted. Our essential ‘humanness’ – our soft skills, our collaborative ability, our effort to empathize – cannot, yet no one would dispute their importance. As the old adage has it: “Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.” In fact, my research found that KPIs are some of the biggest culprits behind reputation destruction. Over-emphasizing the importance of KPIs can disconnect a person’s performance from the larger organizational community, because KPIs can distort individual motivation. Creating a ‘results at all costs’ mentality can lead to reduced engagement from employees, even if financial targets are achieved. To illustrate: a manufacturer in Asia had several consecutive years of impressive financial growth, yet internal engagement scores were declining each year. Although people were achieving their numbers, they were creating a toxic environment in the process, and the brand’s reputation was being damaged. It wasn’t until customers said they felt mistreated, and would leave if the company didn’t fix the problems, that action was taken. The company had to break a culture that was dominated by individual KPI-based performance management. It did so by creating collaborative performance objectives and new soft-skill, growth-mindset routines. New solutions began to emerge, financials continued to improve, and engagement scores started to reverse their decline. The Four Seasons Hotels brand, meanwhile, is widely recognized for its world-class service, delivered uniquely in each market. During one visit, my family and I were greeted by name by


the concierge as we entered the lobby. The front office manager also knew our names, including those of our children, who were each given a gift specific to their personality, making them eternally loyal to the hotel, much to my financial chagrin. It was a delightful example of creating a meaningful experience. At the time, I was chief executive of a boutique hotel company and I wanted to learn their service secrets. The front office manager explained that the hotel creates guest profiles before check-in – in our case, using notes that the reservationist took during my call – before preparing welcome gifts. I asked her how they knew our names when we entered the lobby, since we weren’t wearing name badges. She said, “Oh, that’s easy. The valet looked at your luggage tags as you entered the lobby and then phoned the concierge to say that the Davis family – two adults, three kids – has arrived. The concierge hung up and walked over to you.” It was simple, yet powerful. Four Seasons ensures its employees know the universal brand principles and are empowered to contextualize those principles locally, minimizing disconnects and thereby creating meaning for everyone.

Empowering people to build your reputation

Ultimately, empowerment and engagement among employees is pivotal to company growth and demand. Growth requires demand for your offerings; demand is spurred by market interest borne from reputation; and the quality of that reputation starts with the people inside the organization believing they are trusted, and understanding how their contributions affect stakeholders. Command and control micromanagement of work habits and KPIs won’t create an inspired workplace. Employee and partner ecosystems thrive best when objectives, values and contribution to society are mutually reinforcing, not approached as zero-sum. Leaders must understand how their brand creates meaning for both employees and society, and nurture both workplace environments and partner ecosystems that are in sync with each other and with market needs. When aligned this way, brands not only build reputation and drive growth: they even have a credible and positive role to play as a force for good in the world, serving as a de facto decision-making filter when stakeholders are choosing among different value propositions. Leaders must think boldly about what makes their organization a distinctive force for good and recognize how their offerings are experienced. It is not easy to build a successful brand. But when reputation and trust are the drivers, good deeds are bound to follow. — John Davis is regional managing director, Asia, at Duke Corporate Education Q4 2019 Dialogue

Profile for LID Business Media

Dialogue Q4 2019  

Today’s global economy is shaped more by businesses than by nation states: by the goods and services they provide, the networks and supply c...

Dialogue Q4 2019  

Today’s global economy is shaped more by businesses than by nation states: by the goods and services they provide, the networks and supply c...