Are You a Brand Killer? Everyday Decisions that Harm You and Your Company

Best Buy, HP and American Airlines have all taken a hit on their brands this year. Ruthless price pressures, the third CEO in less than two years and Chapter 13 just to name a few. These companies and others have faced complex challenges that have hurt their brands in 2012.

If you aren’t a top executive, it can seem like someone else’s job to build a brand, but we all have an impact on our company’s – and our own individual –  brand in little ways every day. And, social media lets each of us easily become a commentator on any brand.

Yet, do we care about some customers more than others? There may be a double standard if we are up in arms when the advertised merchandise is late or the customer service number wait time is too long, but yawn when other potential customers have a terrible experience.

Do any of these sound familiar?

  • You interviewed some great candidates for the new position, but decided to hold before filling the job. Though you had good intentions, you never followed up with the candidates to let them know. “That’s how recruiting works – candidates have to understand that things change.”
  • You made a candidate wait for months to learn if they would receive an offer. They eventually gave up and went to a competitor. “We have a very consensus oriented process – we are always slow to decide.”
  • You hired a talented team member, but it wasn’t a good fit. You surprised him by offering an exit package with no advanced communication of problems. “This was just easier and quicker than managing a graceful exit.”
  • You met with two consulting groups who spent time creating new ideas on how to approach your new initiative. You decided to handle it internally, but never communicated the final decision to the consultants – even though they followed up with you several times. “They are vendors. They are used to this.”
  • You were supposed to speak at an industry forum, but had to cancel at the last minute because of a conflict. They asked if you could help find a replacement given the late notice, but you were too busy to help out. “Unfortunately, there’s no time to honor all of the extras – they’ll come up with something.”
  • A guest visited your office and had to wait for an hour to see you. “My boss called with a problem and she takes priority. It was a favor to even fit him in given my crazy schedule.”

You get the idea.  You represent the brand every day, all day.

We recently met a potential client at their request. We spent a lot of time with them building out their idea. But, when it was time for their decision, they cancelled a meeting after we were already on site and we had to wait for a long time on prior visits. They then rescheduled our call six times after we juggled our calendars to accommodate. We concluded that they aren’t a good match for us. But, I couldn’t help but think that a few minutes and some small courtesies would have kept them looking professional and us enthusiastic about their brand. They never connected that we were possible customers too.

The people you interact with are all potential customers for your business or you in the future. After they meet you or your company – regardless of outcome or reason – do they leave thinking that you are a company or individual they want to work with? Recommend to others? Or become a customer?

Much has been written about Brand You, Tom Peter’s take on how to be the CEO of Me, Inc. by building your reputation and living your values. You build your personal brand one day at at time, person by person.

So, before you think of a brand as the work of the advertising people or corporate – remember the faces you come in contact with every day. You are leaving an impression with them about you and your company’s brand they’ll take with them and share with others. Make it count.

Patti Johnson is the CEO & Founder of PeopleResults at  She can be followed on twitter @pattibjohnson or at her company @people_results.