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MARKETING: Drivers Of Reputation Change to Reflect Economic Situation

 





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In four short years, the drivers of a company’s reputation have changed. And, with the recessionary environment hitting hard in 2009, strong guidance and good navigation were expected, not only from internal stakeholders, but also from investors and often consumers.

This was the finding of the Ask Afrika Trust Barometer, the preferred local corporate reputation benchmark providing companies with the opportunity to evaluate their reputation against current trends, and determine the impact of these trends on their reputation.

In the current edition of Brands and Branding in South Africa, an article by Ask Afrika shows that while ‘brand’ was the strongest driver of a company’s reputation in 2006, this has been replaced by ‘leadership’ in 2009 (see table below). Further, as the words ‘carbon footprint’ became more common, sustainability was recognised as a dominant characteristic of a good reputation along with financial performance, the essence of any successful company.

The article pointed out that, despite a growing authenticity in understanding corporate reputation and trust, South African companies are still not actively and voluntarily managing their reputations. This ‘lowtrust’ environment, it said, makes everything about doing business more difficult: loss of trust leads to higher transaction costs, lower brand value and greater difficulty in retaining and managing talent. In the current environment, corporate reputation and trust are about far more than shareholder value”

Based on a peer review of 200 interviews with CEOs and the EXCO of JSE-listed companies, the Ask Afrika Trust Barometer contained in Brands and Branding in South Africa identified the most trusted companies and CEOs/executives in South Africa. These were:

· SAB – the Most Trusted Company in South Africa in 2009

· Nedbank – the Most Trusted Green Company.

· Jacko Maree, CEO of Standard Bank – the most trusted CEO (for the third consecutive time in 2009)

· Mvelaphanda Group Limited – the Most Trusted Black Owned And Managed Company

· Allan Gray – the Most Trusted Asset Management Company

One company and brand that came under the spotlight in the 16th edition of Affinity Publishing’s ‘brand bible’ as having to address ‘trust issues’ is BP. An article written by Brand Union CEO, Anthony Swart, carefully dissects the brand’s passage through the decades and asks how it will survive this year’s Gulf of Mexico pipe burst.

“Brands, like people, are only relevant in relation to the social environment in which they operate. Environments are continually changing and so too should the brand in order to remain current and pertinent,” he wrote.

“Sometimes change is incremental, along with social and technological advances, and sometimes a step change is necessary. These big shifts typically occur when there is a marked adjustment in technology, or political or social views, which force brands to react to remain relevant.

“BP is a brand that has weathered the best part of a century coming into existence in 1908.

“Societal reaction to a technological issue has called into question the behaviour and decision making of BP executives, and ultimately the entire positioning of the company. How they manage the communications and perceptions of this disaster could determine the future of the company. Can BP remain relevant and respected by consumers, given the extent of the oil spill and the furore of blame surrounding it?”

Swart continued asking: “If it is found that BP had a culture based on price overriding environmentally correct decisions, the entire ‘green’ positioning would be destroyed – the damage to the brand would be so great as to be irreparable, and BP as we know it may cease to exist. Could this be the end of over 100 years of brand heritage?”

Affinity Publishing’s Ken Preston doesn’t think so, quoting brand trust and resilience. “Even grudge purchase brands like petrol build up considerable brand trust and loyalty over extended periods of time,” he said. “In the Petrol Stations category in the Sunday Times Top Brands Survey published in August this year BP occupied the top position, as it has every year since 2000. Time will tell if that trust has been significantly eroded.”

Sub-titled ‘The People’s Choice’ this year to reflect the defining relationships consumers have with the brands they relate to and consume, the 300-odd pages of Brands and Branding in South Africa 2010 also features more than 20 thought-provoking articles on critical issues shaping the brand landscape.

Contributors to this year’s edition include brand doyens such as Andy Rice, Thomas Oosthuizen, Paul Bannister, Joseph Benson and Mike Freedman as well as new stars in the branding firmament. Together, they explore topics like:

· The brave new brand world: are we ready?

· Telling the truth to help build your brand.

· Achieving less din, more dialog in your social media presence.

· Soul brands of the 21st Century

· The secret language of colour.


 
 
 
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