What's Your Brand?

A brand is an icon or an image that evokes a message or an impression about the person, the product or service:

Consider the messages of Trust, Excellence, Quality, Prestige, Value







What’s Your Brand?

If you own a company, particularly one you have founded, it’s fair to say the personality and character of the company reflects you – it is an extension of your values.

As companies and as individuals, what we seek most is acceptance, approval and admiration.  For customers who know us personally, their business is an affirmation of their trust in us.  For potential customers who do not know us personally, we construct symbols or icons which we hope will convey images of trust, reliability and quality customer service.

Let’s think about some familiar examples.  What message do these images convey?

Mercedes B Hitlers Mercedes


Many would say this logo represents Quality, Prestige, Exclusivity or Success.  
For others, it may evoke an entirely different picture.


CHEVROLET logo Reliable, Affordable,
Made in Canada
For some it may evoke pleasant memories of family road trips. 
For others, it may represent the ordinary and evoke memories of rust and paint issues, the massive financial  bail-out or anticipated layoffs and the impending closure of its Canadian plant in Oshawa.

Volkswagen logo Volkswagen: The peoples' car;
the iconic Beetle;
German engineering quality.
 For some, this may bring back memories of that ancient Beetle they drove in university days.  For others, it may represent cheating on emissions numbers.

The point is that these universally recognized symbols may evoke positive or negative responses in the mind of the beholder.

Here are a few more examples:

Air Canada logo Canada’s Airline 
CBC Air Canada

Child left alone in airport overnight.  (https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/thunder-bay/air-canada-teen-1.4106886)

united airlines logo


"Fly the friendly skies”

United Passenger

Passenger dragged off flight by aggressive security.  


 Sunwings logo



 "Experience the Difference"

  CBC Sunwing

 Passengers sit on tarmac for hours with no food or water and not permitted to use the washrooms. 



What happened here?  The logo, image or icon can actually evoke negative images of a company which places its interests ahead of its customers.

What’s your Brand?

  • Is your company highly regarded by your customers and your employees?
  • Do your employees reflect your personal desire to provide high quality customer service?
  • Are you faced with policy decisions which place your values in conflict with your employees, your customers and your profit motive?

We all need to have a moral or ethical compass to guide us in forming policy and in the care and feeding of employees and customers.

President George W. Bush was said to have used the acronym, “WWJD” (“What would Jesus do?”) in deciding on a just course of action.  We may not all agree that his actions were well motivated but it is said he had good intentions.

Much has been written about forming just, ethical, thoughtful and responsible business policy.  I happen to think it has been made more complicated than necessary.

When I was growing up, we learned about the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. As we gained some life experience, we got our heads kicked in a few times. We learned expressions like, “nice guys finish last”.  Or, “do unto others, just do it first”.  We found that always trying to do the right thing doesn’t always bring the desired result.

The character part in all this, for individuals and companies, is how you deal with this experience.  Do you become cynical and adopt a policy of self-preservation or, do you continue to hold the belief that The Golden Rule is always the best guide in making policy, in managing employees and customers and making your way in the world?

What’s your brand? 

Do you conduct your personal and business life by the Golden Rule?  Do you make decisions, craft policy and base your personal and corporate brand on these principles? 

Call it a code of ethics, core values, a moral and ethical compass, we and our business enterprises must have a belief structure around which to build our existence.  If this belief structure is strong and well-articulated, everything you do in your business and personal life flows from there.

Tell the truth:  If you screwed up, admit it quickly, own it and fix it.  Some may never forgive your transgression.  Just make sure you have done everything you need to do.

Always do your utmost to put the customer’s needs ahead of your own.  Not every customer will reward or recognize your highly principled approach.  Just keep doing it because it’s right.

Never miss an opportunity to show your employees how much you appreciate them.  Not every employee will be loveable and praiseworthy every day.  But they’re your employees.  You hired them; you trained them and you sign their pay cheques.  They are your conduit to the customer.  Make sure they reflect your principles and standards.

Make sure everyone understands that we’re all here for one reason only:  the customer.  No customers, no business, no paycheques.

Whether it’s customers, employees, colleagues, friends, family, learn and practice two things in every encounter:  Listen and Empathize.  Turn off your natural instinct to advocate and argue your point of view, long enough to hear what the other has to say.  Listen with empathy and understanding.  Engage the other in finding a resolution that works for both of you.  There may be cases where you feel you gave away something.  In fact, your gesture may never be acknowledged.  Do your best, do what’s right and move on.

Think about those people sitting in an airplane for hours under hostage conditions, having been diverted by weather conditions.  Why did no one consider their plight and take measures to alleviate the problem, instead of pretending it wasn’t their problem.

On February 8th 2017, in a similar but separate incident, an Air Canada flight from Toronto, bound for St. John’s NL was diverted to Fredericton NB by bad weather, arriving at the gate after midnight.  Air Canada personnel told hungry passengers they were unable to provide food because the concessions were closed.  A WestJet pilot on learning of the problem took it upon himself to order in food for all, from an off-airport pizza delivery, at his company’s expense.  (http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/newfoundland-labrador/westjet-pilot-buys-pizza-air-canada-passengers-1.3979790)

Here is an example of two airlines, competing for business in the Canadian market. One decides that there is no food available because the airport concessions are closed; therefore, no action on their part is required.  Their competitor’s employee sees the situation from a different angle.  This is a problem that shouldn’t exist because there is food available and he can make it happen.  Air Canada saw the problem as a weather issue over which they had no control.  The WestJet pilot saw a different problem – hungry people – and quickly found a solution, even though they weren’t his passengers.

What’s your brand?  Are you Air Canada in this situation?  Or are you the WestJet pilot who rode to the rescue?  As an employer, how would you feel about the way your people conducted themselves in this situation?  Are you embarrassed or proud?

What’s Your Brand?

  • Do you stand for quality products and reliable, customer-centric service?
  • Do you stand for integrity and fairness in your relationships with customers, employees and suppliers?
  • Have you created a culture in yourself and your company where “doing the right thing” is a way of life.
  • If so, this is your brand. This is the gold standard you live by – personally, professionally, corporately.
  • If this is your brand, every decision, every policy, every word and deed flows from that.
  • If you are advertising your product or service, make absolutely sure you deliver on your promises.
  • If you are making policy, make sure it reflects your core values and it is applied fairly.
  • If you are training and managing employees, make sure they understand, accept and project your company culture.

Your brand is not a logo, a slogan, company colours or livery.  Your brand is your corporate culture and how you conduct yourself and your business in the community.

If you enjoy reading about excellence in business, look for Roy Spence’s book, “It’s Not What You Sell; It’s What you Stand For”.  It’s not just another book about marketing; it’s about corporate values and culture, and how marketing, decision-making, hiring and every other facet of business conduct flows outward from there.


Dave Hands



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