How Does Reputation Affect Brand, and Vice-Versa?

March 26th, 2014 by Reputation Team

PR teams, including our own, dispel the belief that brand and reputation are one and the same.

While they aren’t the same though, each one does deeply impact the other. That doesn’t mean when one is strong, the other is. It simply means that when one is strong, the other should never be far from acquiring the same strength.

We’ll return to this tricky correlation in a moment, but first we want to touch on what brand and reputation are.

Defining “Brand” and “Reputation”

There’s a simple phrase that’s used to differentiate each term. It’s confusing at first, but worth mentioning nonetheless.

Brand is about me. Reputation is about us.

This is how Hill+Knowlton Strategies, a global business communication firm, puts it. And while the phrase is hard to understand if you don’t know what each term means, it acts as a simple tool for remembering the difference between the two after clear definitions are made known.

Perhaps the best way to define each term is how two business scholars define them. In a Sloan Review article about reputation vs. brand, Richard Ettenson and Jonathan Knowles define each term the following way:

Brand is a ‘customercentric’ concept that focuses on what a product, service or company has promised to its customers and what that commitment means to them. Reputation is a ‘companycentric’ concept that focuses on the credibility and respect that an organization has among a broad set of constituencies, including employees, investors, regulators, journalists and local communities — as well as customers.

They also note that brand is about how original and relevant a company and its products/services are, while reputation is about a company’s legitimacy.

Now that the definition of each term is cleared up, the phrase mentioned above should be a little easier to understand.

When Hill+Knowlton says Brand is about me, they mean brand is about the customer and how the customer perceives elements of the company’s “outer layer” – elements like advertisements, promotions, social media presence, product design, website design, logo, service approach, and everything in-between. And when Hill+Knowlton says Reputation is about us, they mean reputation is about the company itself and everyone impacted by the company’s successes and failures.

Now that That’s Cleared Up …

It should be fairly easy to see how a company’s brand affects its reputation and how its reputation affects its brand.

Reputation –> Brand

At, we help business’s improve their reputation – specifically online – so that other areas of the business can flourish. Here, we place more emphasis on reputation than brand because we realize that if the former isn’t strong the latter will make little impact on consumers. (This also goes the other way, of course, and for that we have online branding services.)

Take one of the world’s biggest companies – Google, for instance.

Currently, Google has both a strong reputation and brand. But think what would happen if word started to spread that Google was accepting payments from companies requesting automatic and unwarranted higher rankings. Ultimately, Google’s brand would hold less merit. Those blue, green, yellow and red Google letters would suddenly represent corruption instead of user-friendly search, smart advertising, and state-of-the-art software.

Even if it was just an online rumor blown out of proportion, the side-effects could be catastrophic. However, the difference between Google and other companies is: Google can control Google search and largely control the spread of false rumors online. Other companies can’t.

Or can they?

Brand –> Reputation

While a company can have an amazing staff, work environment, and set of ethics that are publicly recognized, a company can be limited to the customers it appeals to. Sure, everyone will respect a company with a great reputation, but will everyone follow a company with a great reputation?

That’s the million dollar question. And from our years of experience in traditional and digital marketing, we believe we have the one-word answer …


Without a brand that’s appealing, original and relevant, even a well-respected company can’t attract a faithful following of customers who make regular purchases. Perhaps the best way to think about it is to reference the old adage, looks aren’t everything.

Unfortunately, this is only partly true in the world of business, because while “what’s on the inside” (reputation) does matter, true beauty (success) is only fully realized with the right looks (brand).

What simple formula can we take from this parentheses-riddled statement?

Reputation + Brand = Success

If you’re interested in learning about the ways we can help you manage your online reputation, contact us today.

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