Kwaku Ananse and the power of your brand’s reputation

favourite TV show

Years ago, those old enough will recall the captivating ‘By the fire side’ TV show. Every week, we watched as Maame Dokono told stories about Kwaku Anase, a rather dubious, greedy, selfish and altogether naughty character. He was cunning in his ways and looked to outwit everyone around him. Kwaku Ananse was always in trouble. Not surprisingly, after the story telling, when Maame Dokono will ask her young audience about the lessons learnt, the verdict always pointed to one message: ‘we should not be like Kwaku Ananse’.

As I have matured, however, I have learnt that Kwaku Ananse was more complex than I learnt from these lessons on By the Fire Side. He is imbued with a special ability to outsmart and triumph over difficult situations and powerful opponents. He is smart, creative, very witty and finds a solution for every problem. So Kwaku Ananse is actually one to be loved! But that is only if you can look past his flaws. Unfortunately, it would appear that his flaws were his stronger suit and so he gained notoriety for his bad ways.

Kwaku Ananse teaches a lot about brand reputation which we can define as what people think about your brand based on its past behaviour. People here can be consumers, employees, partners, even their friends. Based on how you deliver on your promise, what you say about yourself, what people say about you, how worse or better your competitors are than you and what you have come to be known for etc., people will make up their minds about you. For Kwaku Ananse, he had consistently given us selfishness, greed, inconsideration etc. And so, we formed our thoughts about him accordingly.

Brand reputation is not only about how you deliver on your brand’s promise though; it is also about all the seemingly insignificant things – your receptionist’s attitude, your CEO’s social media posts, the way your branded vehicle complies with road traffic regulations, your uniformed officer who stops by the road to urinate etc. Everything matters! After all, we know of businesses that deliver on their promise but that are loathed because of a perception that they exploit their employees.

So, brands simply cannot afford the ‘I don’t care’ attitude that won Ananse his negative reputation. A bad reputation will cost you. It will cost you customers, good employees and your very survival. In contrast, a good reputation means people feel they can trust you and so become loyal to your products. If they like and trust you, they will also sing your praises to their friends; that’s free advertising and more customers. Trust also means that in people’s minds, you offer value for money; an opportunity to charge premium prices! With a good reputation, you will also attract good talent; people like to work with an organisation the think has a future they can contribute to and benefit from.

Brands should, therefore, not sit on the fence and allow a reputation to emerge by chance. It is best to engineer a positive reputation. Aim to project an image that aligns with the reputation you seek and consistently work towards cementing it. Do not make claims in public that you fail to respond to and remember that every touch point has potential to build or damage your brand’s reputation. Treat each with care and seriousness.

Kwaku Ananse left a nickname for himself – akpatsɛ. You can engineer the reputation you seek for your brand by considering the following tips

  • Define what you want your brand to be known for and communicate it clearly, both internally and externally
  • Invest resources in delivering the promise you’re the identity your project.
  • Establish and manage your online presence to communicate yourself, build visibility, engage stakeholders and monitor conversations about you
  • Actively court feedback, listen and respond to them
  • Improve the customer experience- at every touchpoint; they all matter
  • Treat your internal customers (employees) well; their stories about your brand carry weight.
  • Create a brand style guide that directs how you communicate every time, everywhere
  • Hire professionals to support with managing your brand’s reputation

As you do all these, keep in mind also that reputations can vary across different stakeholder groups. When a company turns over huge profits, it earns a positive reputation among shareholders. At the same time, it might be deemed ruthless and overpriced by consumers. This means that your brand reputation strategy must consider the needs, experiences, values and opinions of different stakeholders. While the reputation you engineer must be consistent across board, the modus operandi for achieving it mong different groups must be bespoke.  A one size fits all brand reputation strategy risks misalignment with, and discontent among some groups.

It is also important to think of brand reputation as a phenomenon that is open to change. Brand reputation can change over time. A few years ago, people thought highly of Menzgold. Today, the stories we have heard have reorganised what it represents in our minds. Therefore, it is important to closely monitor evolving perceptions about your brand and proactively manage them.

Finally, you must also think about the unexpected and how it frames your brand’s reputation. Crises cannot always be prevented but your response in addressing them can help or hurt your reputation. Setting up a crisis response strategy and system should, therefore, be on your to-do list as you aim towards improving your brand’s reputation.

Our forebears taught us that ‘edin pa yɛ sen ahonya’ (a good name [reputation] is better than riches). Your brand’s reputation holds long-lasting value; nurture a positive one. And if you are not convinced, then perhaps the wisdom in ‘kwaterekwa sɛ ɔbɛkyɛ wo ntoma a, tie ne din’ (if Mr nothing promises you a treasure, listen to his name). When your brand becomes ‘Mr nothing’ in people’s minds, they will think twice about everything you say. Mostly likely, they will refuse to hear you. Your reputation and what it represents in people’s minds tells them how to rate you. Make sure it is and stays a good name. Thank you.

The author is a senior lecturer at the University of Ghana Department of Communication Studies ([email protected])

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