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Reputation vs Image

Man illustrates reputation vs image on whiteboard during team meeting with four coworkers

We will be known forever by the tracks we leave.

- Native American (Dakota Tribe) proverb.
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A university junior some years ago presented an especially well-written, contemplative paper entitled Reputation vs. Image.  He equated reputation with fine, solid woods — cherry, walnut, teak, mahogany, and rosewood. Next, he identified image with veneer that could be stripped away easily.

He argued his thesis persuasively . . . coherently.  “A significant separation exists between the two words. One means high quality, crafted for acceptability. The other comes cheaper because of how it’s made and veneer is less appealing in most instances,” the young man wrote.

The paper’s author cautioned against both types showing only minor differences . . . at first glance and when each ages. He stressed identified several point-of-fact characteristics. Here is a brief summary.

Reputation, like fine solid wood, stands for:

  • Serious effort to gain and maintain respect.
  • Reliability against weaknesses.
  • Value often increasing over time.
  • Durability against spurious, spiteful, unwarranted, and decayable exposure.
  • Strength of brand.
  • Continuous honor.
  • Favorable impressions.

Image, as a veneer, means less because:

  • The true emphasis is on optics – external appearance, form, reflection, and refraction.
  • Glued and usually less than one-eighth inch thick, it snaps easily, peels and chips.
  • Despite care it has much less permanency.
  • Veneer is difficult to repair and match. To restore originality, each task is difficult.
  • Thinness invites scratches and dents.
  • Veneer, like a person’s questionable “image” becomes a soft touch.

This clever student ventured out of the box, to borrow a common phrase.  In doing so he used analogies that should drive home why brand and leaders of brands, whether product, service, organization, marketing techniques or other categorical kindship should accentuate reputation.

Finally, an unfavorable reputation is destructive economically, to employee morale, and harmful when consumers are deciding between/among similar companies in which to make purchases, use services, or select the best of different professions.

Despite staying in touch for a while we erred by not following this individual’s entry into whatever after-college venture became available. Had we done so there was almost no doubt at PG about our gaining a prize employee — talented, intelligent, energetic, affable.