EVERY little thing matters in branding

In its simplest terms, branding is who we are, how others feel about us, and how industry and the public view us as an organization. Every time a prospective member, a potential customer or the general public contacts us, by whatever means, they formulate an opinion of us which creates our brand.

For example, one of the most successful brands was Tiger Woods, the first “billion dollar athlete.” Tiger, the golfer, was known and loved worldwide; a family man, he was known equally well for his work with underprivileged children and for his foundation. Corporations avidly sought his endorsements. Then an exposure of infidelity dramatically shattered his brand and, to some degree, the brand of those who endorsed him. With his recent wins re-positioning him as one of the world’s top golfers, will it also be a factor in recreating his brand?

Lance Armstrong, the cyclist, won the Tour de France for seven consecutive years, fought cancer, and returned to win again and again. He introduced the collaboration of sponsors, and corporations jockeyed to become sponsors. He also founded charities. Again, the public fervently supported him; he had over four million followers on Twitter. Then the deep dark secret of performance-enhancing drug use crashed his brand and changed the public’s perception of and attitude towards him. Of course, his brand is damaged right now.

Who we are and how others feel about us may also be called character, credibility, and reputation. Character is the combination of moral and other traits which makes one the kind of person one actually is. Credibility is the quality of being believable or worthy of trust. Reputation is the regard in which a person or group is held, especially by the community or the general public.

These elements of branding apply not only to individuals but to governments, businesses, and associations. In order to influence the world, a government must be true to its character and must maintain its credibility. When senators, politicians, and other government officials, acting from self-interest, depart from the country’s character and standards of government, the government loses credibility both at home and abroad.

You may recall that in 1982, Johnson & Johnson faced a major crisis due to someone’s tampering with extra-strength Tylenol capsules once they reached the market shelves; an unknown suspect(s) put cyanide into the Tylenol capsules, which resulted in the death of seven people in Chicago. This event was a potential major blow to the Johnson & Johnson brand. Although Johnson & Johnson knew they were not responsible for the tampering of the product, they assumed responsibility of ensuring public safety first and recalled all of their capsules from the market. The way Johnson & Johnson handled this crisis not only saved lives, but it saved their brand from damage. The public relations industry played an important role in managing the risk that could have damaged Johnson & Johnson’s reputation. Afterward, many companies followed their lead in dealing with major crises. However, others didn’t learn the lesson, such as in the case of Exxon Oil spill.

Starbucks and Apple customers generally develop a powerful and visceral emotional attachment to their brands. Could it be that these companies are exactly who they claim to be, and that they deliver what their customers want? It is certainly true that each of these companies jealously guard their reputations and the consistency of their brands. They obviously have learned that every little thing matters.

Has IAEI learned that? Let’s look at ourselves and ask two simple questions: Who are we? and What do others think of us? Confusing taglines and multiple logos do not make IAEI; character, credibility and reputation do. These elements are important:

Who are we really? IAEI is a group people who have chosen to work together toward the common goal of safe and compliant electrical installations. Do we understand that “we” means “all of us,” not just our officers or staff? Do we stand firmly on our moral and ethical beliefs? Are we joyful, excited, and forward-looking? Passion is contagious; therefore, it is essential that we truly enjoy and believe in what we do and stand for. If we do, others with the same passion will want to be part of our association and will talk about IAEI in a positive manner.

What are our skills and expertise? We must clearly and specifically identify what we do best and what are our core strengths. The more we focus on what we do best, the more efficiently we do it and the more likely we are to succeed.

What are our vision, goals, and strengths? We should not pattern our goals after those of other associations or groups. The goals must be our own and must be supported by our strengths. We must have our own identity, unique from others.

Over the next several months the International Office will be identifying ways to increase our brand recognition. In the meantime, every little thing matters! Never underestimate the affect that you, as an individual, have on the overall brand of IAEI.

David Clements
David Clements is CEO/Executive Director of IAEI. He has been an active IAEI member at the local, section and national levels for more than twenty-five years. He served as international board member from 1995 until 2007 when he served as our 2007 international president. In 2010, he retired after twenty-nine years with Nova Scotia Power, in Halifax, Nova Scotia, as their chief electrical inspector. During his tenure as chief electrical inspector, he was a voting member on the Canadian Standards Association (CSA), Technical Committee on the Canadian Electrical Code, Part I, a member of the Regulatory Authority Committee and member of the Canadian Advisory Committee on Electrical Safety. He has served on NFPA Smart Grid Steering Committee, Electrical Infrastructure Training Program and is presently a member of the UL Electrical Council.