How Reputation Affects Your Brand

Though there is a direct link between reputation and brand, most CMOs are in the early stages in this journey to link the two.

In the recent CMO Club Virtual Roundtable, How reputation affects your brand, Stephen Hahn-Griffiths, Chief Reputation Officer, of the Reputation Institute, discussed a recent study on the topic conducted by The CMO Club in thought leadership with Reputation Institute, while Karen Kahn, CCO, HP, Inc. presented HP, Inc.’s approach as a case study on the topic.

Hahn-Griffiths said there are two pressures that impact perceptions: the upward pressure of products and services and the downward pressure of enterprise and purpose.

“You think of that reputation as a fulfillment of your greater purpose,” he said. “Your purpose increasingly becomes a litmus test for how your organization is viewed.”

Hahn-Griffiths worked with The CMO Club in conducting a proprietary study and CMO Club Solution Guide earlier this year. The study provides insights and analysis from senior level marketing executives on the challenges they face in how a corporation’s reputation is shaping a company’s brand image.

That study showed that only two percent of CMOs are in the more advanced stages of their reputation journey: cross-functional planning and integration. The majority are in the earlier stages, which include:

  • Exploration and business rationale – 16%
  • Measurement and management framework – 37%
  • Business planning integration- 45%

“As you can see, the majority fall in the lower end of the spectrum,” Hahn-Griffiths said. “If you’re working for a company that’s still trying to figure things out, don’t be concerned.”

At the same time, CMOs are able to identify the major benefits of reputation as it relates to brand, he said. Most CMOs said that reputation affects their employer brand – they’re more likely to attract the best talent based on reputation. This ranked first in the survey, while competitive differentiation ranked second.

“So even though preparedness is relatively low, most companies have a proxy of some kind for how they measure reputation,” Hahn-Griffiths said.

As CMOs tackle managing brand and reputation, Hahn-Griffiths said the survey showed they ranked the following three areas as those they’re most focused on:

  • Higher purpose
  • CEO activism
  • Market influencers

“These are critical today to your brand,” he said. “These are what people care about around the world.”

After some discussion on the topic of brand vs. reputation and the survey results, Kahn shared some insights from HP, Inc.

Kahn, whose career background spans journalism, agency and client-side work, said for HP, it’s all about storytelling.

“We’re creating a narrative that resonates in the market,” she said.

She said half our beliefs about a company are shaped by product expectations and the other half is based on reputation. She shared some statistics that show 25 percent of a company’s market value is based on reputation; 70 percent of consumers believe reputation is a critical point; and 92 percent of top talent base their decisions on a company’s reputation.

The HP Company separated four years ago into HP, Inc, where she now resides, and Hewlett Packard Enterprise. In many ways, that makes them an 80-year-old company and a four-year-old startup at the same time, she said.

Over those four years, they’ve slowly changed their focus each year:

  • 2016 was about being relevant.
  • 2017 was about building a reputation, and helping people understand their CEO, as well as their narrative as a new company.
  • 2018 was about purpose – a big part of HP’s DNA is about having a social impact and being a purpose driven brand, she said.

“We needed those first three years to build out who we are and what we stand for,” Kahn said.

2019 is about trust, she said. Over the past few months, the organization has welcomed a new CEO, and a new operating model, and announced a major corporate restructuring.

“Reputation becomes more important than ever,” Kahn said. “You rely on the ecosystem to support you.”

The focus now turns to driving a strong sense of purpose, she said.

“Our strategy is to connect the company, whether product, corporate reputation or corporate brand to the economic, social and cultural truths of our time,” she said. “We do that through storytelling.”

HP drives brand storytelling through a website called The Garage, Kahn said.

“Our belief is people trust companies more that they know and they can relate to,” she said. “Our content has to do with aspects of the consumer experience that people expect from us.”

Kahn said the site is not about marketing or promotional material, but about “core content that has to do with stories based on the people and communities that use and are interested in our products.”

For example, one particular project, the History of Memory, brings to life the stories of moments in people’s lives when they printed something that was important to them. The inexpensive documentary series produced by HP was recognized with a number of awards.

“Branded content like this is a really important way to build trust and awareness within your communities,” she said.