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It is better
to not be on
the web than
to be on and
not know why

John Sumser

is more
it seems.
John Gall


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Brand Cancer
(January 07, 2003) - A brand is a set of expectations embedded in a relationship. As intangible as it seems, a brand has substance and value. Although it is neglected and misunderstood, the employment aspects of the brand are an essential part of the overall brand value. One way of thinking about the equity in a brand is to consider the experience of every person who comes into touch with it.  The total value of the brand is the sum of the meaning of all of those individual experiences.

A healthy brand grows in positive meaning and value over time. When managed well, it comes to represent the guarantee that expectations will be met. Simply seeing or hearing some brand names is enough to evoke the quality that they represent. Brands are symbols that we fill with our experience of the firm behind the brand.

The effective management of a brand requires precise alignment within the firm. Starbucks has achieved massive brand recognition through tireless attention to the details of the customer experience. The meaning of the brand is understood and acted on by all employees of the company.

When a company is not completely aligned with its brand, terrible things begin to happen. As customers associate negative experiences with the brand, word gets out and the brand begins to take on new, harder to manage, characteristics. This is because what fills a brand is customer experiences and no amount of marketing spin can solve bad customer experiences. 

Misalignment between the brand and the firm's behavior comes from one of three sources: inattention to an aspect of the brand, an internal quality failure or ineffective communications within the organization. It can be an oversight or an overt management failure. The cause doesn't matter to the customer.

Everyone has seen a terminally cancerous brand. Think of young pop stars who lose their kiddie audience as the stars mature into adolescent druggies. Edsel had the disconnect so bad that it's still talked about. 

Without dramatic intervention, a cancerous brand rapidly deteriorates the value of the company.

Unfortunately, all companies have 'employment aspects' to their brands. In general, these components of the brand go unattended. Websites that provide no confirmation email; personnel departments that file resumes without acknowledgement; slow moving hiring processes; recruiting promises that do not match the work realities and badly worded/ badly placed job postings are just the tip of the iceberg. The cure begins with an audit of the hiring process from the candidate's perspective.

(Thanks, Dave.)

- John Sumser

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