Business

Are you investing enough in your corporate image?

Sales Pitch

Herman Alvaranga

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

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A corporate image summarises what the company stands for as well as how it is known in the marketplace. Whether it is the “good hands” of Allstate Insurance in America, or the “affordable living” of LASCO here in Jamaica, creating a specific, positive impression in the minds of clients and customers should be the goal of image management.

Consumer beliefs about a firm are more important than how company officials perceive the image. Corporate names such as Apple, Porshe, Kraft Foods, and LASCO create impressions in the minds of clients and customers. Although the specific version of the image varies from consumer to consumer, or for each business-to-business buyer, the combined views of all publics determine the overall image of a firm, which can be positive or negative.

COMPONENTS OF A CORPORATE IMAGE

A corporate image contains invisible and intangible elements. Consumers encounter many elements as they interact with a company. A recent study suggested that the top three components of corporate image were:

• The quality of a company's goods and services.

• The willingness of a firm to stand behind its goods and services when something went wrong.

• Perceptions of how the firm dealt with customers, such as by being pleasant, helpful, or professional.

Can publicity be bad?

Doubtless you have heard the term, “Any publicity is good publicity.” Some people swear by it, but does that make any sense to you?

Let's say someone is selling corned beef, and three shipments in a row had to be withdrawn for possible contamination. If that happened in your store and the media got hold of it, would you consider that good publicity for your business?

SIX REASONS FOR INVESTING IN YOUR CORPORATE IMAGE

Some firms are reluctant to invest in good marketing/brand management programmes. This is especially so when their experience has been mainly with what we refer to as 1P marketers, whose domain is marketing communication tactics with no strategic underpinnings, and whose effectiveness is questionable.

Nonetheless, we offer the following six reasons for investing in building your corporate image. The first three are taken from the perspective of the customer, while the others are from the perspective of the company.

1. Customer confidence. A good brand image offers confidence regarding purchase decisions, especially in situations where the buyer has little experience. It is, for example, reassuring to know that a bag of Blue Mountain coffee from Cafe Blue here in Kingston Jamaica is the same wherever in the world you may purchase it.

2. Reduced search time. Purchasing from a familiar firm reduces search time and saves effort. When some men go shopping, for example, much to the chagrin of their spouses they just go to a familiar store, purchase a familiar brand and they are done!

3. Psychological reinforcement. Purchasing from a highly recognised company often provides psychological reinforcement and social acceptance. Psychological reinforcement comes from feeling that a wise choice was made, and the belief that the good or service will perform well. Social acceptance results from knowing that other individuals, such as family and friends, have purchased from the same firm and are likely to accept the choice.

4. Ability to charge higher prices. Most of us believe you get what you pay for, and so better quality is often associated with higher price. This leads us to what may be the most important reason for investing in building corporate image from the company's perspective. A strong corporate image allows the company to charge more for their goods and services, thereby attracting higher margins and profits.

5. Customer loyalty. Firms with well-developed images have more loyal customers. Loyal customers are less inclined to make substitute purchases when other companies offer discounts, sales, and similar enticements.

6. Good word-of-mouth publicity. Considering that consumers and business buyers have more faith in personal references than other forms of advertising or promotion, favourable comments from satisfied customers can be priceless.

So back to where we started. In an age of product parity, the only real differentiator for most firms may well be the customer-based equity in their company name and the brands they offer.

If I may paraphrase F L Gunter (does anyone remember him?), companies should stand aside and watch themselves go by. And in doing so, ask themselves whether they are investing enough in arguably their most valuable asset.

Herman Alvaranga, FCIM, MB, is president of the Caribbean School of Sales & Marketing (CSSM). For more insights on sales and marketing, please go to his blog at www.cssm.edu.jm

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