Do you want an * by your company’s name?

Picture_2 As a baseball fan, I watched with great dread as Barry Bonds approached Hank Aaron’s home run record.  For me, the two men couldn’t be more different.  Bonds surpassing Aaron’s record was sort of like when the villain gets one up on Batman.  They usually do it through deceit and trickery.

In my opinion, Barry got his spot in the record books the same way.

The historic baseball that was #756 was delivered to the Baseball Hall of Fame last week.  But it arrived with an asterisk.

As most of you know, fashion designer Marc Ecko purchased the ball in an online auction for $752,467 and then held an on-line poll to ask what should be done with it.  The choices were:

  • Bestow it (Just give it to the Hall of Fame)
  • Brand it (Give it to the Hall but first put an asterisk on it to signify the doubts about Bond’s steroid use)
  • Banish it (Launch it into outer space)

Almost 10 million people voted and almost half of all the votes went for brand it.  And so it was done.

The truth is, we’ll never know the truth.  But Bonds conducted himself in a way that we doubt his character.  Most of us don’t give him the benefit of the doubt and he will probably never be able to behave his way back to being respected and trusted.

Think about that sentence.  Probably never be able to behave his way back to being respected and trusted.  Yikes.

Why?  Because through his words and actions, he had built a brand that told us he was rude, conceited and didn’t care about the game as much as he did about his own creature comforts and fame.  And now, that brand is part of the reason behind the lion’s share of the country thinking that he lied when he said he hadn’t taken steroids.

Is it fair?  Probably not.  But life and branding aren’t fair.  As I said in a post from last year, once you don the black hat, it’s pretty tough to take it off.

I don’t think Barry built his brand consciously or with one fell swoop.  It was a million tiny choices and interactions.  Do I think today he wishes he had been a bit nicer to reporters?  Do I think he wishes he stuck around a little more often to sign autographs after a game?  Do I think he wishes he had handled himself better when things got heated up?

You bet.  But he can’t.  He’s already wearing the black hat.

So why am I waxing on about this, you ask?  Because we could just as easily and just as accidentally create the same sort of brand trouble.

What small decisions, policies and behaviors are going on in your company that might add up to a brand you can’t behave out of?  Don’t be too quick or too smug to think there’s nothing you can’t improve on.  I’ll bet with a little thought (and input from your co-workers and clients) you could come up with 5-10 small things that aren’t giving off exactly the brand message you want to create.

You have time to fix it.  Before your marketplace puts an asterisk by your company’s name.

For more on marketing and asterisks, check out Patrick’s post over at Responsible Marketing.  I borrowed the above photo from him as well.

 

8 comments on “Do you want an * by your company’s name?

  1. Cam Beck says:

    Exactly. A brand is not the sum of all the advertising, but the complete picture of our very nature, which can be judged only by our fruits — both big and rare and small and plentiful.

    Great post.

  2. I spoke to Barry Bonds once about helping him with his web site business. He seemed like a sharp guy but your points are spot on.

    He tarnished his legacy permanently – whether he’s guilty of steroid use or not – because the brand he built didn’t pay enough attention to his many, seemingly small, missteps adding up to a negative public perception despite his performance on the field.

    A word to the wise…

    As I’ve said elsewhere: Success rarely arrives overnight. It’s your commitment to small steps forward every day that makes you a winner.

  3. Alanna says:

    One great example of this is American Apparel, whose sexually suggestive advertising has lost them a ton of the socially conscious customers they are aiming for.

  4. Drew,

    Thanks for linking to and sharing your take on this topic.

    You probably noticed in the last day or two that Walmart has a new logo. Guess what? It’s the word Walmart (no star in the middle) with an asterisk at the end.

    Happy marketing.

    Patrick Byers
    Outsource Marketing
    http://outsourcemarketing.com

    The Responsible Marketing Blog
    http://responsiblemarketing.com

  5. Cam,

    It reminds of of that quote…(paraphrasing here)

    Our character is what we do when no one is looking.

    Brands work the same way — there’s never a time when absolutely no one is looking. So sooner or later a company’s true brand (character) is revealed.

    Drew

  6. Scott,

    That’s why your brand absolutely needs to be authentic. You can fake something for a little while…but not for long.

    As Bonds proved…just not in a way that helped his image.

    Drew

  7. Alanna,

    Consumers are very comfortable voting with their wallets these days. Companies like American Apparel need to think long and hard before they do something edgy.

    In some cases, it’s in perfect alignment with their brand. But sometimes, just because it’s cool or hip or whatever…doesn’t mean it’s the right fit.

    Drew

  8. Paul,

    I’ve been reading plenty of commentary on it. What’s your take?

    Drew

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