As an ally to the cause of business rejuvenation, I was deeply elated by an announcement of the East Legon and Abelenkpe branches of Marwako Fast Food reopening – effectively bringing an end to what must have been a tumultuous couple of months for the restaurant. Running a restaurant business is made tough by the myriad of challenges that come along. These range from dealing with rapidly changing customer expectations, variation in consumer tastes, competition from the influx and proliferation of other restaurant brands, plus the challenge of finding suitable personnel to act as the face of the brand.
With all of these, it is not unlikely that your brand reputation may suffer a jolt or two along the way. Nonetheless, it is also the capacity to gracefully withstand such pressures and bear with difficult times that great and resilient brands are made of. This is as true for businesses as it is for entertainers, politicians and other professionals.
Various scholars define brand image along the lines of deeply-held logical or emotional perceptions consumers have about specific brands as reflected by their memory of the brand and its associations (Keller, 1993; Hsieh & Lindridge, 2005). Any damage to these perceptions requires a lot of tact, intentionality and deliberateness to repair. Your actions must be aimed at creating an emotional shift that should come with a change in the experiences of your customers and how they are served.
While a brand may suffer momentary attrition and a dip of patronage in the event of any reputational damage, a significant number of customers are more likely to stick around and help give the brand a rebound if they feel a genuine commitment on the part of the organisation do right forthwith and subsequently. I discuss below a few strategies that businesses, professionals and other entities may adopt in giving their brands a jump should they suffer any such setback.
Be Proactive – Being proactive implies taking the first steps in acknowledging the issue and making a firm and sincere commitment to deal with it. This allows you to own the narrative and effectively suppress any spins the problem may precipitate. It is also important to initiate contact and engage directly and honestly with all affected persons, and take practical steps to assuage their angst. These may include bearing the cost of any loss and compensating for any inconveniences suffered.
It is also beneficial to subsequently schedule regular engagements with regulatory authorities and get them to publicly certify your compliance with industry standards and statutory requirements. Similarly, a sullied personal brand requires that the individual involved engages forthrightly with their audiences and ensure they manifest a genuine desire to properly align with the standard expectations of their assumed public or private role. Any attempt to pontificate your competence, knowledge or pedigree only exacerbates the dent in your personal reputation, effectively fostering brand alienation.
Be Transparent – Transparency involves submitting yourself to appropriate scrutiny and showing commitment to adapting and making changes that ensure continuous improvement. A lack of transparency feeds public distrust and erodes an already diminished credibility. The people behind any brand are only human, and are not incapable of mistakes despite their best intentions. Therefore, instead of sweeping issues under the rug and potentially aggravating their consequences, brands that engage their audiences with openness and candour make their customers and clients appreciate their ability to be self-aware and willingness to accept feedback and make improvements going forward.
Perform an Audit – Repairing a damaged brand does not imply an obliteration of everything it ever stood for. An audit will help you identify the strengths and weaknesses of your brand and how this can inform steps you ought to take in effectively positioning it for impact. The audit reveals how the brand can leverage its strengths and helps managers develop a bulwark against the ever-present likelihood of the competition feeding off its vulnerabilities. The outcome of any such audit should lead to an enhancement of any time-honoured practices, a clear sense of what needs to change; and then proceed to make those strategic changes.
Inform and Excite – A lack of information flow leaves a trough that easily gets filled by false assumptions and misrepresentations which can be awfully injurious to evolving public perceptions of the brand. And for a brand that is seeking to rebound, it is imperative for your audiences to get informed and excited by the prospects for change. This can be accomplished via advertising, authoritative mentions, favourable commentary by brand influencers and the creation of a blog that highlights customer’s experiences with the brand.
Advertisements inform, persuade and remind consumers what the brand represents and what it is capable of. Authoritative mentions refer to getting an authority in your field of endeavour to speak favourably and offer expert and unbiased opinions about the efficacy and credible attributes of your brand, preferably on a platforms that are considered neutral. It is also important to choose exciting brand influencers whose brand personalities align with your brand, and those whose acts have over time endeared them to your particular target audiences.
A blog helps the brand control its narrative and allows the business to play a dominant part in shaping public perceptions about the brand and what it represents. Again, it is vitally important to interact and engage in proactive listening and solicitation of feedback through dedicated contact lines, responsive social media accounts – through which the brand courteously, professionally and promptly addresses all customer concerns. The use of promotions and the imagery of excited and engaged customers functions as an important pull-factor.
Branding is a daily process of bringing multiple aspects of your business activities and brand voice together, and consistently adjusting them to the evolving expectations of your customers and target audiences. So, basically, your brand is never done being built.
The writer is a Marketing Strategist and lecturer
Email: [email protected]