Meet my nine year old daughter, Grace. She is a dynamic, energetic, athletic and extremely sharp girl, who is also extremely passionate about NFL football, and particularly, the Pittsburg Steelers. Her room is painted gold, her bed displays the full NFL limited bedding collection and multiple posters, trading cards, super bowl and playoff caps adorn the walls of her room along with a new collection of “terrible towels”. She knows the history of the team, all of the players, their stats and she is tuned in to ESPN everyday, both via satellite and internet. Every mothers dream!!! (Ahem, could we take an art class please?)
Recently, Grace and I had a discussion, which completely reaffirmed my thoughts and intuitions about image branding. Last year when I heard the rumblings of Ben Roethlisberger’s alleged lawsuits I knew I was going to have to have a talk with Grace. Eventually she asked me about what was going on and why people were accusing “Big Ben” of all these bad things. I basically gave her the “G-rated” version of the Ben allegations and tried to explain why he was in trouble.
Shortly after, I notice Grace’s room is missing a few posters (Roethlisberger), a few football cards no longer in the frame (Roethlisberger) and I found an NFL jersey in the garage sale bag in the closet (Roethlisberger).
I have spent a great deal of time thinking through Grace’s decision to eliminate Big Ben from her list of NFL superstars. I assured myself that it all comes down to character, which is a key attribute and fundamental foundation of business we all tend to underestimate, everyday. No matter what product you are trying to sell, what message you are trying to market or what promises you are trying to advertise to your customer base…at the end of the day what truly means the most to your customer, is the character of your company and your people. The people you put out in the field are the very ones who interact day to day with your customer base and therefore truly embody who you are as a brand and what you stand for.
Why do we do business with who we do? Cost is important, quality is important, performance is important…but we all ultimately make business and purchasing decisions based on the relationships we make…with people we can trust and with the very people who live by the same character and moral standards that we value ourselves. Without real brand integrity, you are simply marketing false messages to your customers….messages so transparent, that even a nine year old can see through.