Two men set appointments with a loan officer at a local bank. The first shows up casually dressed and hands over a single piece of paper that contains only a few bullet points. The loan officer notices immediately that a word in the first sentence is misspelled. The second man walks in and hands over a polished business card. He then presents a bound, multi-page document detailing how much money he needs, how the money will be used, and a series of justifications for why the bank should provide him with the loan he wants. Who is more likely to get the loan?
We would like to think that perceptions have little to do with our success — that the way we look, the way we act, and the way other people think won't determine whether or not we can get a loan, get a job, or find a new customer. But, unfortunately, it’s just not true. A study done in 2004 demonstrated that prisoners were more likely to be paroled if those judging their cases had recently eaten lunch. It was not just the law or the years served or good behavior that contributed to the decision, it was also whether or not those judging had full stomachs.
The way our businesses are perceived is not just the product of what we do and say, it also includes the assumptions our customers make about the world. We do not evaluate things objectively because our emotions play an enormous role in what we choose to buy and who we choose to engage with. But since that’s the way the world works, we have to deal with it. And since brands create emotions, including trust, it makes sense that when we develop a strong brand we will be more likely to get the results we want.
Entrepreneurs have to establish credit with vendors. They have to create good relationships with banks and loan officers. They have to attract and retain industrious employees. A good brand can help an entrepreneur do all of these things. But when trouble arises, a strong brand can be even more valuable because it strengthens these relationships and makes it possible to overcome problems when they arise.
Rob's Romantic Bistro
Rob's romantic restaurant is expecting a large order of filet mignons from a supplier for Valentine’s Day, one of his biggest nights. Sandy, who supplies beef for his restaurant and several others in the area, receives a call and is told that, due to a shipping problem, she will only receive half the number of steaks she was expecting. She now has to call half her customers and tell them that they won’t be getting the steaks they ordered. Which restaurants will she choose? She’s probably going to supply steaks to the customers she values the most — the ones who have built the strongest relationships. She may weigh which restaurants have paid their bills on time against those who are chronically late. She may think about which restaurants are still likely to be open a year later. All of these factors are part of the mental brand image she carries for each of these restaurants, and those brands are what she will use to make her decision.
Every person who interacts with your business — each customer, employee, and vendor, your banker, your lawyer and the guy that cleans your office — carries a perception of you and your business in their mind. This perception — which we call the brand — makes decisions possible. All of the mental images that we’ve developed for your business come into play each time we make a decision. A strong brand makes good relationships possible, and helps us make decisions about whether or not to help you succeed.