Reputation Management for Entrepreneurs: Checking Your "Brand Bank"
Do you know if you're making "brand deposits" or "brand withdrawals?"
Before you scroll on past - this article is for you if you're:
- working for someone else
- running your own business
- looking for work
- a student
- a parent
- or a person of any sort
This is going to be about understanding your brand (your reputation) and powerful ways to improve it if you're missing the mark.
You may already be thinking, "but I don't have a brand."
Well, do others have an opinion of you, based on elements of who you are, what you do, and how you present yourself?
If you answered "yes" - guess what? You have a brand.
The question is - are you managing it well?
To help you understand and do that better, I'd like to tell you a little bit about Steve Jobs and Disney's CEO, Bob Iger.
Steve Jobs, Disney, and the "Brand" Bank
Back when I worked at Disney in Franchise (Brand) Management, I first heard of the concept of making "brand withdrawals" and "brand deposits" during internal creative meetings.
These phrases comes from a concept attributed to Apple's Steve Jobs:
"(Steve Jobs) believed that a company’s brand works like a bank account.
When the company does good things, such as launch a hit product or a great campaign, it makes deposits in the brand bank. When a company experiences setbacks, like an embarrassing mouse or an overpriced computer, it’s making a withdrawal.
When there’s a healthy balance in the brand bank, customers are more willing to ride out the tough times. With a low balance, they might be more tempted to cut and run.”
- Excerpt from Insanely Simple: The Obsession That Drives Apple’s Success by Ken Segall
I heard this idea quoted by so many people internally, including Pixar's CCO - John Lasseter. Even Disney's CEO Bob Iger has been quoted on the value placed on this concept,
"In a strange way,” Iger told Fortune Magazine, “I am the brand manager of Disney.' He sees his job as building, in the words of his friend the late Steve Jobs, more “brand deposits” than “brand withdrawals.”
And this always stuck with me - because the thing is, as I said in the beginning - we each have a brand, whether we are aware of it or not. And it's so important to have an eye on it, so when you do have those setbacks - like Steve Jobs referenced - they don't destroy the goodwill you've built up.
Think about it. Even in your personal life, if someone who's consistently on time, shows up late to an event - you don't get upset. In fact, you probably worried about them. On the flip side, if you know someone who constantly shows up late, being late to that same event is more insult to injury and you felt really annoyed. At that point, this particular person's brand has a pretty low balance and risks your friendship - maybe you'd be ready to cut and run.
Each of us should pay attention to our brand "banks," if we want to have strong customer, career, and personal relationships that can both weather the storm and grow in the good times.
When it comes to our businesses, our careers, or even our personal lives - are we making enough brand deposits or are we making too many brand withdrawals?
Let's understand this better by defining a deposit and a withdrawal in a relatable way, then I'll give you a simple way to figure out your own balance.
What are examples of "brand withdrawals?"
You don't have to be a company like Disney to make a brand withdrawal, and you're going to make them no matter what you do. (That's why understanding your balance and how to make brand deposits is so critical).
Here are a few examples of "brand withdrawals" we all might make:
- Asking for several favors at one time
- Forgetting to email someone back
- Being slow to reply to someone or inconsistent in your communication
- Not following through on something you promised or committed to do
- Launching or selling a product or service that's inconsistent with your brand
- Launching or selling a product or service that fails or backfires (like Jobs' example)
- Not reciprocating generosity or support
- Directly asking for sales / being pushy about sales or services
- Making some sort of public mistake (even a small one)
We're all human. We're going to try things and they may flop. We get busy and go through seasons of stress in our lives. We're going to forget to write back to someone, or thank them, etc. It's going to happen. And it's going to affect your brand.
But that's exactly why you can make (and should make) "brand deposits."
What are examples of "Brand Deposits?"
Brand Deposits are fun. Making brand deposits is all about doing things mainly and directly for other people's value and benefit - for your customers, your clients, your coworkers, or even your friends and family.
Think generosity. Think extreme reciprocity. Think about you / your brand from someone else's shoes.
One example from my business is to get personal, even if it takes you time. If you joined this newsletter by signing up for my ebook when it debuted on February 10 and afterwards: you got a direct, personally written email from me to thank you.
Yes, in case you got one and were wondering - I wrote each and every person who's gotten the book via the website an email personally, only to thank them sincerely. No sales pitch. No automated marketing email or scheduled generic note.
Personally, I know I'm so tired of getting pitches and scheduled emails from professionals, so I didn't want to go that route (which to some, can be a brand withdrawal.) So, I've written hundreds of these personal emails and continue to, with each and every sign-up.
Why? Because I do really appreciate it and I want that person to feel like I care about them. I'm not a corporation, I'm a person with a business I believe in. I can take a few minutes to make this kind of "brand deposit." And one fantastic part of a project like this is hearing back on those emails from so many of you!
For another example, last year, I also gave away 1-on-1 consulting sessionsand a professional brand analysis every single time I sent a personal newsletter via anniefranceschi.com. This was something of tremendous value - given away because I knew it would help someone else. (And it did. The amazing Tori of Tori Hartwell Photography won a session a few months back and now she is out there making some of those recommendations and her business dreams happen left and right).
Here's a bunch of ways you could implement to make more brand deposits in your business, career, or personal life -
- Reciprocate what others have done for you (recently or in the past)
- Choose being personal where you can
- Practice generosity and thank you (for more ideas, see "The Power of the Unexpected Thank You")
- Follow through consistently on commitments and promises
- Create products or services that are consistent with your brand and serve your clients well
- Be diligent and consistent in your communication
- Ask how you can help someone (then help them through things like introducing them to people in your network)
- Do favors that support others (businesses, careers, organizations, etc.)
- Do a giveaway of intrinsic value (no sales pitch, just something valuable)
- Host an event to provide value to others
- Donate your time or money to a charity or simply to someone or a business that supports you
How to determine your current "brand bank" balance
Now that you get the idea, here's a simple activity you can try to get a sense of how your own brand (personal or professional) bank is doing - and whether it's time to invest or you've got some savings stored up.
- Get out a sheet of paper and a pen (or open up a word document)
- Start at the top by naming the 5 people you've interacted the most with in the past 2 months
- Create a numbered list entitled, "Brand Withdrawals"
- Write out and brainstorm anything you might have done in your work (or personal life, as appropriate) to any of those five people (or your general audience, if you have a business) in the past 2 months that would fit the category of a "brand withdrawal"
- Once that list is done, create a second numbered list entitled "Brand Deposits"
- Repeat the exercise, instead this time - document times you made "brand deposits" for those 5 people (plus your general audience, if you have a business) in the past 2 months
Once both your lists are complete, the test is simple math. Ask yourself - how many (#) brand withdrawals did I have and how many brand (#) deposits did I make in these past 2 months?
With that, take the total amount (#) across both list to determine the percentage of withdrawals and deposits. (Here's a percentage calculator if you're math dumb, like me. Use the blank is what % of blank line)
Your answer may surprise you. Here's how you did:
- If your brand withdrawals are less than 10% of your total "brand bank" balance You may be super human, great job. :) Remember, seasons do change, but I'm betting your reputation and how people feel about you is pretty healthy is right now. Do what you can to make brand deposits with others, beyond those initial 5 people.
- If your brand withdrawals are about 25% of your total "brand bank" balance I'd say this is the normal / average place to be. It means 3 out of 4 times, you're making investments in people with what you're doing and that's healthy - in good times and in bad. This is what I try to strive for (though less than 10% would clearly be epic).
- If your brand withdrawals are more than 1/3 (33%) of your total "brand bank" balance At 1/3 or more, I'd recommend spending the next two months focusing on making more brand deposits - especially with those you spend the most time with. You can use our list or come up with your own - but make sure to make this a priority. It's possible that your brand isn't as healthy as you'd like to be, but making "brand deposits" more a part of your daily habit should help you make (and see) major improvements in your relationships and loyalty with others. Put this into action then do the same exercise again in 2 months. I'm willing to bet you'll see this percentage decrease and have some measurable impacts to what you're doing and in your relationships.
While this little quiz is just an average to get a snapshot, it is an exercise to give you some actionable insight.
Whatever your answers were, what I can tell you from past experience is that - no matter what the balance - there's always great opportunity to make "brand deposits."
After learning about it from the likes of Steve Jobs and Disney, then using it in my own business, I can tell you that this practice is definitely one of the most powerful investments you can make in your professional (or personal life). And the bonus is that it often doesn't cost you more than just your time, attention, and most of all - intention!
Here's to finding balance and as always... stay awesome!