Do Dolce & Gabbana’s recent statements about gay adoption strengthen their reputation as fashion’s aging enfants terribles?
Are Madonna and Elton John right to be raising hell or just ignorant of the full statements (made in Italian)?
Will all this help sales, while further building Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabanna’s reputations?
We define the difference between reputation and brand and discuss cases to better illustrate the matter.
Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is credited with this statement:
Your brand is what people say about you when you are not in the room.
Virgin Group founder Richard Branson is credited with this statement:
Build brands not around products, but around reputation.
What do you think? Do you agree with Jeff Bezos or Richard Branson?
Should we care about brands, or should we focus on reputation instead? Leave a comment below.
Define or stay confused
Before we can answer the above questions, we need to define what these terms mean. A while back I wrote Brand versus reputation: Jeff Bezos, Richard Branson, in which I pointed out that first, brand and reputation are two sides of the same coin and closely related, but nevertheless different concepts. I also disagree with people that say “reputation is part of the brand”. They are related, not the same.
Richard Ettenson and Jonathan Knowles (2008) pointed out the typical factors for a company’s top-notch reputation:
“The company has integrity and is reliable, accountable, responsible and quality-conscious.“
More formally, reputation is the collective representation of multiple constituencies’ perception of the corporation’s behaviour. Accordingly, reputation is about how efforts regarding brand and what the company has done or delivered are seen by its various stakeholders (e.g., investors, costumers, employees and consumer advocates).
Heads or tails, let us define the terms below.So, what is reputation, then? Glad you asked. Based on an extensive literature review, Schwaiger (2004) proposed an approach to measure reputation for corporations. He tested this in a preliminary qualitative study. Out if these findings he developed a survey to test his measures with a data set. Findings suggest four indices to explain reputation, namely:
1. quality (e.g., product or service),
2. performance (e.g., has vision, well managed, performs well),
3. responsibility (e.g., sustainability, being a good corporate citizen), and
4. attractiveness (e.g., offices, buildings, as an employer).
The above can be used to explain reputation as measured with performance and sympathy toward the company. Your reputation precedes you. It significantly influences your chances of doing business with somebody.
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Does company size matter?
Size definitely matters when it comes to brand. You might have a brand in your part of the woods, but Coca-Cola or Nespresso are still in a different league; they are global. What about your brand? If your company employs less than 250 tull-time employees (what the European Commission calls a small- and mid-size enterprise or SME), you are unlikely to have a global brand.
Your resources will surely not allow you to splash your logo all over the place, so spending money on brand is hard to justify. However, spending resources on keeping your clients happy, while maintaining a good reputation is a no-brainer (i.e. go for it). However, as Emil Heinrich points out, even a SME has a brand in the region where it does business. Hence, this might help recruitment up to about a 100 km radius.
Are consumer brands becoming less important?
That remains to be seen. Nevertheless, here are two industries with interesting trends.
Food: Craft versus Kraft
In a recent Financial Times article (March 17, 2015 – Craft versus Kraft), Gary Silverman discusses food business trends, in particular how Kraft or Campbell’s Soup are losing market share to small food producers (retrieved March 18, 2015 from http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/2/2a238422-c7e0-11e4-8210-00144feab7de.html).
The millennial generation wants products that are low in salt, sugar or fat. As well, these must be free of artificial flavors and rich in protein or anti-oxidants. This is the result of older American consumers being more prone to obesity, heart disease and other maladies. In turn, the article insinuates that millennials do not want to follow the same path.
“…how important it has become for food companies to tell consumers an interesting story, replete with details about their products’ ingredients and health benefits. Such narratives give brands the coveted — and elusive — quality of ‘authenticity’.”
Clothing: #DolceGabbana or #BrandyMelville
The Dolce & Gabbana label came under fire in 2007 for an ad that many felt depicted the gang rape of a woman. The ad was ultimately pulled soon after, but unfortunately, Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana were accused of referring to people who were offended as ‘a bit backward’. Of course, belittling those who took offense is neither acceptable nor in good taste.
The above image is from Kelly Cutrone’s tweet about the ad, which she tweeted on March 15, 2015. It got a lot of attention in the US, Canadian, UK and German media, partly because of an interview the two fashion icons given Panorama, an Italian magazine.
According to Dolce & Gabbana, and as stated in the printed interview, “la famiglia tradizionale, fatto di mama papa e figli,“ (a traditional family, comprised of a mother, father, and children). Of course, if one reads the interview more closely, it is clear that the guys are referencing their own upbringing and Sicilian traditions in general. There, this family model is paramount.
What got people like Elton John and Madonna upset was that the fashion designers dared to raise some scepticism about in vitro fertilization and surrogate mothers, mentioning their personal opinions about this. Whilst we may disagree, a democracy thrives on allowing people to state their opinions; castigating them thereafter on social media is an increasing – but worrisome – trend.
Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana are also the guys who drew applause for sending a pregnant model down the runway as part of their tribute to mothers.
Similarly, some people got rather miffed earlier this year about Brandy Melville, a clothing brand that offers only size small. It clearly discriminates against people of different size. Of course, it is unlikely you will fit in a small size dress if you are over forty. I do not 🙂 Again, some social media backlash happened. Questions about the viability of the brand continue (see DrKPI and #BrandyMelville). Can such a brand survive or will it simply die, as Abercrombie & Fitch seems to be?
More brands than Dolce & Gabbana or Brandy Melville have raised controversy: in 1994, Benetton took a fallen Bosnian soldier’s uniform, using its red blood and bullet holes for an ad campaign.
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The above examples offer two insights as spelled out below.