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Character Counts In Business Too

Does your company have good character? I’m not talking about the people or “characters” within the company. While the people make up a very important part of it, I’m talking about the character of the company, itself.

Good character, like TRUE branding, is based on a very specific set of criteria. For TRUE branding, we’ve determined that the brand must be True, Relevant, Unique and Engaging to have a strong, marketable brand foundation. But when it comes to character, there are six traits that form the strongest foundation:brand_with_character

•  Trustworthiness
•  Respect
•  Responsibility
•  Fairness
•  Caring
•  and Citizenship

Not one of those characteristics has anything to do with increasing market share or ROI.

There’s more than the bottom line. There’s more than the marketing. There’s more than 60-hour workweek. There’s more than the executive washroom. There’s more than accounting or sales. More than copier paper, toner, staples… There’s simply more, and it’s called character. While it shouldn’t be confused with your company brand, good character and a TRUE brand should go hand-in-hand.

Can British Petroleum (BP) say they’ve got a good character? If you evaluate the company character based on the simple six criteria listed above, they’re failing miserably! They’ve broken our trust, shown absolutely NO respect, taken no responsibility for their actions and have been deplorable in their dealings since the spill (can we even call it a spill any more?). And let’s not even talk about caring and citizenship. It’s a perfect case study in complete corporate character implosion. Even based on the TRUE branding criteria, I’d say their brand (and company) is in a world of hurt.

I love the recent statement by Laura Ries when she identified BP’s “brand problem.”

“The spill in the Gulf has pulled the curtain off of a company that has been blowing smoke up our butts for years. No consumer, regulator or politician will soon forget this tragedy”

And she concludes with,

“Strong brands with a reputation for quality, safety and honesty are able to survive even the worst tragedies and negative PR stories. Toyota, Tylenol and Goldman Sachs have faced some dark days recently, but for them the future is still bright because the brands are strong. For BP, not so much. A brand with a poor reputation facing one of the worst oil spills ever is damaged goods. No amount of advertising can fix this. Anything BP says will no longer be believed. You can fool us once, but never again.”

Because of recent events, BP is the obvious example, but what other companies have been branding themselves as the “community company” when its character, deep down, is flawed, selfish, myopic and detrimental to the community in which they serve? Finding the truth within your brand is imperative. It’s the foundation on which all else is built. Ironically, truth is a core component for good character as well.

I can’t emphasize the importance of the correlation here.  There’s an important connection. When the two support each other, everyone wins!

What has your company done to educate and foster good character? Does good character start in the corner office and spread on down through the ranks or is it simply a happy face panted over oil slicks, smoke screens and broken promises?

Food for thought…

Keep Cooking! (TRUE character-driven business)
Andrew B. Clark
The Brand Chef

For more information on the six pillars of character, check out these links:

http://www.charactercountsiniowa.blogspot.com/
http://charactercounts.org/sixpillars.html
http://www.drake.edu/icd/
http://josephsoninstitute.org/business/

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