Brand and reputation are tightly linked but not the same thing. They share similar goals and approaches. Both being shaped by communications and seeking to improve perception. Although talking about the two is pretty common, the fact is that they are not physical assets.
The function of a brand is generally to generate desire, differentiation and motivate buyers to pay more for your products. Reputation on the other hand is in a sense a look at your track record, an accumulation of your actions and statements. So while you build your to get the most returns, you protect your reputation to preserve credibility and trust. Brand is proactive but on the other hand reputation is defensive. They are both important to your business and the can both damage your business. Brand is about relevancy and differentiation while reputation is about legitimacy.
The two go hand in hand, you build a brand and a business on the back of a strong reputation, and you use the credibility and consistency of your reputation to attract the people, the investors and stakeholder support needed to resource the organization and its brand.
There are dangers in focusing on one more than the other. Giving more attention to reputation at the expense of brand can lead to products that weaken in the market. The same goes for concentrating on brand and neglecting reputation. You risk lower stock price, difficulties in attracting top talent and even a boycott of products. A strong brand isn’t equivalent to a good reputation and a solid reputation doesn’t mean a strong brand. What this means is that you can have market presence and awareness but not be trusted or liked. You can be liked and trusted by the people who are familiar with you but outside of that circle remain unknown. Either way, the brand is left under-powered and this will affect its ability to make meaningful and significant contributions towards business growth and profitability.
Many businesses focus on reputation because it impacts directly on how people talk about the organizations, so from a professional stand point it matters. No one wants to have worked at an organization with a bad reputation but since brands are not perceive as part of the day to day responsibilities, it can easily be viewed as something that is barely a part of operations.
Businesses need to shift the mindset that brand is an impression outsiders have of the organization to one where brand is seen as a direct expression of strategy and growth plans. Brand needs to be seen as something everyone in the business is responsible for. On the other hand reputation needs to be positioned not as “marketing” but as acknowledgement. This is what the organization is known and respected for.