3 Key Differences Between Branding and Reputation

3 Key Differences Between Branding and Reputation

Khalipha Ntloko
1 November 2019

Sir Richard Branson once said that “Branding demands commitment; commitment to continual re-invention; striking chords with people to stir their emotions; and commitment to imagination.Nowadays, it has gotten easier for brands to echo this sentiment, thanks to the way that technology and social media allows brands to not only show their commitment towards their brand values, but to also and connect with their audiences in more personal ways. 

people sharing online content on social media
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In our recent ‘Setting Up Your Brand For Success in 2020’ PR and Branding Strategist, Catherine Shipushu shared how a brand is “the sum total of the experience your customers and customer prospects have with your company.” In essence, your brand is what makes you easily definable. We know what the ‘swoosh’ logo from Nike represents, and why we associate the three-pointed-star from Mercedes Benz with ‘class’ and ‘excellence’. While these can make brands relevant in the eyes of their audience, credibility is based on something else entirely – reputation. 

Regardless of how long and hard your business has worked towards creating a brand image, it can all be ruined by a single social media post or your business not responding quick enough during a crisis. Factors like this can leave your brand’s reputation shattered. To help you understand why this is possible, this blog post explores the 3 key differences between branding and reputation.

Branding Means Relevance But Reputation Means Credibility

Your brand is about how relevant you are to your audience and consumers. By using audience insights or customer segmentation, you can understand your audience better and in turn, work towards making your brand relevant to them. If you know that your audience are women who loves to keep active but still look fashionable at the same time, you’ll tailor your brand in a way that motivates them to keep up this lifestyle, and include your brand in the process, such as local South African athleisure brand, MovePretty. This is a brand that understands and got specific about who their audience was, and created a brand identity that is relatable to them. 

woman in pink movepretty activewear

Your reputation, on the other hand, speaks to your credibility. Now that you have worked at creating a great, customer-centric brand aimed at meeting the needs of your customers through your products or services, do your customers see you in the same way? Is the way that you are communicating your customers being well received by them?

Whilst your brand is more objective, your reputation is subjective, especially to the very customers speaking about your brand. Because people trust people, and rely more on the opinions of their peers, oftentimes your reputation precedes you.

You Can Build Your Brand In A Month, But Your Reputation Takes Years

Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither will your brand. But thanks to the likes of technology, laying the foundations of your brand can be built quicker than laying brick and mortar. This, however, depends on the kind of brand you’re actually trying to build. 

If you look at Apple, the company took years to establish itself as one of the Big Four tech companies in the world. This was because of the innovation that Apple was introducing into the market. The company released its first product, the Apple I, in 1976 and introduced the world to Macintosh with an advert in 1984. In 2010, Apple launched their first iPad. 

The common thread? These product launches took years because of their innovative nature. But even though they took years, the Apple brand established itself as leaders within the tech industry. Through their marketing and advertising, they found ways to connect with audiences who weren’t familiar with technological terms by using a language linked with feelings. How would you feel owning a tool that was built for creativity? The infamous iPad Air advert focuses on a pencil for most of the ad, and uses non-technical terms to sell you a product that you need to own. 


There is a reason why today, Apple has a fan base that will support the brand, no matter how innovative their competitors may advertise themselves to be. Brand trust has been established throughout the years for Apple, and the connection that they have formed with their target audience has given them a reputation that both the brand and audiences ‘Think Different’.

You Control Your Brand, But Not Your Reputation

Building a brand means creating visuals that are uniquely yours and easily identifiable – the logo and tagline. When you hear the tagline “I’m lovin’ it”, you immediately think of McDonald’s. As much as you have taken the time to establish your brand with great visuals and catchy taglines, with technological changes and evolution, your brand needs to keep up with these changes. 

Catherine Shipushu shared how brands don’t need to remain static over time – they are allowed to change. If you take a look at the Microsoft logo, it has gone through significant changes in terms of colour schemes, typography and the use of different shapes.  

microsoft logo changes over the years

And while you can change your branding as often as you like, your reputation can’t be so easily swayed, because your business is not the one in control of it. Your audience is. 

Your reputation lies in the eyes of how your audience sees you, and the credibility that has been attached to it. Today, technology has made it even more important for brands to thus manage and protect their online reputations. An online crisis did not exist 30 years ago, but we live in an age where one tweet against your brand can turn into a PR crisis. Catherine advises that you invest in training your team to know what to do when this happens.

reputation management and pr crisis communications

As you define your brand, including the visual aspects and storytelling, make sure to also invest in understanding that reputation is also an important element of your business. Consistency is key, especially when it comes to your brand identity or the content you provide. This is how you will inspire the trust and credibility needed to ensure that your brand not only looks good in the eyes of your audiences, but is known as a reputable brand that is also highly regarded.

Need help with understanding what your brand’s reputation is online? Request a demo with Meltwater today to see how Social Listening can enable your team to stay on top of your brand’s mentions.