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How Your Brand Reputation May Have Changed in 2020

Whether you like it or not, you are your reputation.   

How your audience, community, and beyond perceive your product and values can easily become your reality. This can be a positive thing – it’s how great small starting companies become great large successful companies. However, it’s also the main cause of the demise of older companies.   

There have been so many examples large and small of how brand reputation can make or break a company:  

The Supreme brand can sell a sweatshirt can sell for hundreds (or in some cases, thousands) of dollars because people perceive it as high end, trendy, and exclusive. (Uh guys… it’s just a sweatshirt.)  

Download our checklist of 30+ ways to promote content here.

On the flip side, the UK brand Burberry took a hit that lasted years based on public perception. Burberry was once one of the most coveted styles. The pattern became so popular that similar versions were widely overused by cheaper brands. Now, a Burberry scarf looks like a dime a dozen, and the style caters to an entirely new demographic. (Though, over several years of work their luxury reputation is on the mend.)

With so much at stake, keeping track of your brand reputation is crucial. 2020 has been an unprecedented year that sent many companies reeling – some came out better, and some came out worse.  

How have you fared?  

How to identify your brand reputation  

We made a great checklist on how to understand your audience’s perception of your brand in this blog, but here are the basics:  

Check reviews. This is where everyone with a strong opinion is gathering to talk about your brand. Positive or negative, these are where you’ll find specific reasons for someone’s opinion on your brand. Finding trends and reoccurring themes can help you identify the current perception of your company.  

Check contact form submissions. The single questions, comments, commendations, and complaints people send can add up to some larger-picture understandings about your strengths and shortcomings. Looking at recent contact forms can also give you a timelier view of your business based on current PR, events, and announcements,  

Investigate all social media for tags, mentions, and DMs to get the quickest and most recent updates on your audience perception. Not only does this help you catch negative shoutouts and nip them in the bud, but also, they can give you a chance to strengthen (or alter) that perception by responding to some posts.   

Send out a survey to your customers can help you answer the exact questions you are curious about. It can be like pulling teeth to get your audience to take a survey, but with the right message and even an incentive will pull in some helpful responses. If you don’t want to dive headfirst into total market research, you can quickly conduct a casual survey over Create polls and questions for your social followers  

Does your brand reputation look the same as last year? If not, it may be time to reflect on your company’s decisions in 2020.  

Common brand reputation mistakes companies made in 2020  

Minimized the damage of the pandemic early on  

Some companies dragged their feet when it came to supporting their employees, shutting down, or switching to a virtual work environment. That’s a great way to showcase your brand as one that cares about the bottom line more than it cares about the health of their team.   

Companies that also tried to piggyback on the tragedy to sell more products, were quickly shot down by those who were offended or saw through their feigned empathy.   

There is a difference between recognizing the potential a product has to improve the lives of people during the pandemic, and many companies did that well. Netflix promoted “Netflix Party” (now Teleparty), a way to social distance while still being to connect and have movie nights with friends. That streaming platform was well-received because it offered a real improvement to the stay-at-home mandate.   

For example, an air purifier tried to claim that their product could free the air of the Coronavirus. Scientists quickly rejected these claims, and the company lost a lot of customer trust from the campaign, and the product isn’t held on the high pedestal it once was.   

Didn’t pitch in  

While some companies focused on how to save themselves, others doubled down on how to help fight.   

Most brands didn’t get called out for not being a part of the solution, but they missed out on a big opportunity to put their money where their mouth is and act on the values that many companies only boast about on their website.   

Companies pivoted their entire business processes to create COVID-specific resources. Liquor companies like Jack Daniels, even though they are a small manufacturer, pivoted to produce hand sanitizer for their employees, families, and donations to fire stations, hospitals, and police stations in their community. Stepping in like that not only showed their team they cared but also was the reason for several positive articles and shout outs from the community.  

Didn’t back up their support with action  

A major area where companies ended up with their foot in their mouth was in regards to the Black Lives Matter movement. Some companies posted support or made a quick statement, but went too vague or not actionable.   

Many that posted did so without thinking to acknowledge their internal shortcomings in racial equality and diversity. So, when they showed up late to the party, the public called them out.   

Those that didn’t back up their statements with a course of action ended up in a worse place than those that waited to make a statement until they had something productive to say.   

Didn’t change and adapt to new demand from their audiences  

Once again, this isn’t a cause for a widespread and vehement negative perception, but it was a large opportunity missed for those who didn’t pivot.  

Companies that refused to change their business processes in reaction to the pandemic ended up trailing their competitors that did a pivot. That pivot includes easy or free delivery, ordering online, increased safety measures, updated return policies, or anything else that made it easier to be a consumer without leaving your living room.   

For example, Chipotle, who has always had a rocky reputation, bounced back in style when they widely promoted a free delivery feature when ordering online. They offered that new process before their competitors, which means they were seen as the frontrunner in the fast-food pivot.   

How to bounce back  

Identify if you need to apologize, or just do better next time. In most cases, you probably don’t. But, if you are like the air purifier that announced false claims about eradicating the Coronavirus, that’s a big slip and needs some cleanup. If you need to publicly apologize, don’t do so without a plan of action moving forward.   

Practice transparency going forward. Make it clear to your audience why you take a specific stance, or why you make a certain decision. If the reason is clear to your audience and matches their values, it’s easier to be seen as an honest company.  

Give back. It’s never too late to make an impact. Whether it’s in your company or your community, start small. Looking back at the Jack Daniels example we mentioned above – they weren’t expecting to be able to offer enough hand sanitizer to cover the whole country, they started small and made an impact where they knew they could. If you find your niche for how to help, people will eventually notice and appreciate your efforts.   

Focus on your customers. When in doubt, find out what your customers need from you and focus on that. Companies that actively put their customers first will spread the right message and offer information that their audience wants to hear.  

Be where your customers are. Right now, this is all about meeting your customers online. Having a strong digital presence shows your customers that you know what they need from you right now. Offering digital leniencies, better online customer service, and an all-around better online experience is a great way to improve your public perception with customers.   


Brand reputation is everything. If you don’t know how someone perceives your brand, then how can you convince them to support your company? If you need help refining your message so it communicates the best of your brand, reach out to our team.


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