Bridging brand and reputation: an interview with Paul Argenti and Kevin Lane Keller

There is only one month to go before the executive seminar on brand and reputation. We interviewed Professors Paul Argenti and Kevin Lane Keller from the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth in order to give you some insight into the topics that they will cover in the seminar.


Many executives talk about corporate reputation and brand as if they are one and the same. But they are not. What are the main differences between corporate brand and reputation?

Paul: Corporate reputation is a summary of how everyone feels about you. If you can imagine an aggregate evaluation of your organization from every constituency's perspective, this is reputation. Corporate brand is how you position the organization as a whole rather than its individual products. You create a corporate brand; you earn a reputation.

Kevin: I see brand equity and corporate reputation as closely related – both emphasize what you say as well as what you do. The image of a brand will contain many associations that can also be thought of in terms of reputation. This is especially true with corporate brands. Brand equity tends to emphasize consumer and product/service relationships a bit more though. Corporate reputation tends to be broader and look at a wider range of factors across a more diverse set of constituents.

Why is it so important to build the bridge between brand and reputation?

Kevin: It is important to link the two because activities that companies may think are directed at one area (e.g., brand equity) may have important effects on the other area (e.g., corporate reputation). Linking the two concepts give firms more complete, holistic views of their brand and corporate image and how they can best be managed. How to build executive commitment to measure company's reputation?

How to build executive commitment to measure company's reputation?

Paul: This is hard for two reasons. First, measurement tools are hard to find and the better they are, the more expensive to use. Second, the kind of measurement systems that companies are drawn to, may not be meaningful. As a result, you have to have a management team that is willing to invest, or willing to live with the limitations of less effective measurement tools.

How have the Internet and social media influenced brand perception?

Paul: In the past, organizations were used to thinking about ways of controlling constituent relationships. Today, companies think more broadly about creating constituencies to communicate with. It's a complete reversal in terms of who is in charge of the discussion. Reputation is much more of a collaborative effort as a result.

Kevin: Digital marketing, social media and all the different Internet-fueled activities and information that exist have certainly affected perceptions of various brands. People have the capability to learn more and be more involved with any brand they choose. That said, the fact is only some of the consumers will choose to get involved with only some of the brands and even then, only some of the time. Marketers must embrace a totally integrated communication strategy that blends traditional and non-traditional options and online and offline activities.

How much does corporate culture influence the “cooperation" between brand and reputation management?

Paul: To some degree it definitely does. Usually (but not always, say when the CMO and the CCO are one and the same as at IBM) brand is controlled by marketing and reputation by comms. If they are in an organization that both values and rewards collaboration fine, but if they work in a competitive environment internally, it is not going to happen.

Kevin: In product-branded organizations such as with FMCG and firms like P&G, Unilever, Colgate etc., the two activities are done by very different groups. Given the corporate brand is less relevant to consumers, reputation activities can focus on other constituents. With a corporate brand, however, the two activities must mesh, and a cooperative culture and well-organized set of processes is crucial.

Building the bridge between brand and reputation
USI Università della Svizzera italiana invites you to join Professors Paul Argenti and Kevin Lane Keller from the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth – ranked number one in both the Wall Street Journal and the Economist for the best full-time MBA programs worldwide. Argenti and Keller, two of the world's top thinkers, provide the latest and most comprehensive framework and practical insights on managing corporate brand and reputation. While the topics of brand and reputation are often relegated to their own corners of a corporation, Keller and Argenti delineate their intrinsic link and focus on how to think about, manage, and measure your organization's brand. Using reputation paradigms they will engage you in a dialogue about how to position yourself and your organization in a highly competitive world.

Paul Argenti is a professor of corporate communication at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth and visiting professor at USI Università della Svizzera italiana. Argenti has more than 25 years of experience in management and corporate communication consulting. His clients include Goldman Sachs, Sony, Nokia, and General Electric. He is also is an academic who has taught at the Harvard and Columbia business schools and as a visiting professor at the International University of Japan, the Helsinki School of Economics, Erasmus University in the Netherlands, Rai University in India, and Singapore Management University. Professor Argenti's most recent publications include "Digital Strategies for Powerful Corporate Communications" (2009), "Corporate Communication" (fifth edition, 2009), and "Strategic Communication" (2007).

Kevin Lane Keller, E.B. Osborn Professor of Marketing at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth is acknowledged as one of the world's foremost leaders in the study of brands, branding, and strategic brand management. Actively involved with industry, he has served as brand confidant to marketers for some of the world's most successful brands, including American Express, Disney, Intel, and Starbucks. He has also carried out brand consulting with Beiersdorf (Nivea), Campbell Soup, Kodak, Shell Oil, and Unilever. Professor Keller has served on the faculty at Stanford University and as a visiting professor at Duke University and the Australian Graduate School of Management. Keller's book, "Strategic Brand Management", is used at top MBA schools and leading firms around the world. It has been called the "bible of branding." Keller is also co-author with world-renowned management guru Philip Kotler of the all-time best-selling marketing textbook, "Marketing Management".