You Don’t Own Your Brand. Sorry.

Dana Sheehan/ Branding

I have bad news for you. You don’t own your brand. I know you’ve spent a lot of time creating a logo and crafting your brand’s voice. You may have spent a lot of money doing this as well. Yet, you still don’t own it. You know who does? We all do.

Your brand lives in the minds of everyone else. Your brand is what other people think about you. And as much as we marketers like to think we can control what other people think, we can only influence it.

Think about the last time you went to a store and had a bad experience. Perhaps an employee was rude to you. What does that say about their brand? Those are the touch points that really matter. And no matter how much you spend crafting a brand’s image, it’s the experience that counts the most.

Take Dillard’s. The retail store positions itself as a place to find high quality fashion at a low price. They want to be the go-to place when you need new, fun, fashionable attire. But that reputation was put in jeopardy when a mother and her daughter had a bad experience and shared it on Facebook.

You can read the full article on Buzzfeed: A Mom Says A Sales Clerk Told Her 13-Year-Old Daughter She Was “Fat” And “Needed Spanx”

The mom posted an open letter to Dillard’s on her Facebook page, and the response was overwhelming. Now Dillard’s was in a difficult position. It is challenging to respond to a claim like this, because you don’t want to assume the customer is right and throw your employee(s) under the bus, but you also need to respond right away with compassion. In our 24/7 news world, responses need to be made sooner rather than later.

In a statement that Dillard’s spokesperson sent out to inquiring media, Julie Johnson Bull said:

“At Dillard’s, our mission is to help people feel good about themselves by enhancing the natural beauty found in all of us. We train our sales associates with the goal of creating a completely positive experience with each visit. It is certainly never our intent to offend our customers.  We have reached out to this customer and her daughter, and we appreciate the outreach of so many of our followers and customers to bring this issue to our attention.”

This was a carefully crafted statement, intended to address the issue, emphasize Dillard’s position as a source of fashion, and to appease customers. Honestly, it’s not bad. I think most people realize that this was one employee who was simply rude. I don’t think Dillard’s is going to suffer long term repercussions from this.

But this does affect their branding. The next time someone mentions Dillard’s, see what comes to mind. If it’s fashion and shopping, then their brand is as they want it to be. If it’s the story of a saleswomen telling a teenager that she’s fat, then their brand has been changed.

Keep that in mind the next time you are representing your brand. Your actions can have a drastic effect on your brand.

Until next time,


[tweetthis twitter_handles=”@littlebirdiecom”]You don’t own your brand. You know who does? We all do.[/tweetthis]

[tweetthis twitter_handles=”@littlebirdiecom”]Your brand lives in the minds of everyone else. Your brand is what other people think about you.[/tweetthis]


Try my online, on-demand Writing for the Web course on Udemy.

Writing for the Web