The Foundation of Your Brand Mansion: Reputation Bedrock

Your reputation is the bedrock of your brand.

In the previous post we discussed how your brand is what others say about you when you’re not in the room.

But wait, you may be thinking. If I’m not in the room, how can I know what people are saying?

In short, you don’t. Not unless you have recording equipment or spies.

This is why social media posts and customer reviews are your gold mine for discovering what both genuine and disingenuous customers are saying about you. 

Strong brands use these volunteer testimonials like the tools they are to establish and amplify their reputation. They do this by determining what they want to be known for in advance and rewarding customers who chime in on all the right notes.

Your Reputation is What You Deliver

A company’s reputation is based on what they deliver for their customers day-in, day-out. This means you need to ask yourself:

  • What experience do you provide that no one else does?
  • What problem do you solve that your competitors fall short on?

REMEMBER: Your brand is NOT what you hope to manifest in the future, but what you can reliably deliver today.

If you’re selling something aspirational or something that doesn’t exist yet, you are an influencer or a coach. Not a brand.

Brands sell something that exists and can benefit their customers immediately.

FOR EXAMPLE: Back in the 20th Century, Nike made you a shoe and told you to “just do it.” You could go buy their shoes and immediately be better equipped to perform in athletic spaces than if you wore everyday shoes.

How well you performed in your new shoes was still up to you and your skill levle, but Nike made it so your shoes were not the excuse for performing poorly.

This is what brands do: They offer customers a concrete way to level up in exchange for money.

It sounds cold when phrased like that, but it is what it is and defining how your customers level up with you is a reputation you need to define and nurture as you start and grow.

This is why:

Establishing Your Reputation Bedrock is Important

Your Reputation Bedrock is the ground your Brand Mansion is built on. And it’s important that you establish your own solid ground because market ground is naturally shifty. 

The market will toss you to-and-fro, if you let it, then trash your mansion with no regrets. The only way to stop that is to lay the groundwork for what you will be judged on no matter where the market happens to be at the moment.

The good news is:

Defining your Reputation Bedrock is easy. A child can do it. 

All you need is:

  • 2 pieces of paper
  • A pen/pencil
  • A lists of qualities you want to be known for
  • Access to reviews
  • about an hour of focus time

Once you have all these set aside, it’s time to run an objective self-assessment about the value you bring to your market.

START BY brainstorming answers to the following questions on the first piece of paper:

  • What are the most common comments people make about your product?
  • What adjectives describe your benefits your designs provide?
  • How does your product make customers feel?
  • In what ways do you out-perform the competition?
  • In what ways does your competition out-perform you?

Treat your answers like a word cloud — writing down everything you can think of.

If a theme repeats, write it down again and again. Let the redundancy show. This is the paper where everything gets a voice. You’ll edit later.

NEXT, grab the second sheet of paper and draw the outline of a rough rock on it. 

It doesn’t have to be fancy. It can look like this:

outline of rough rock

All you need is a simple outline of a rock to transform into a solid foundation for your brand’s reputation.

But before you you do that, you need to infuse it with your brand.

STEP 1: Go gather all the reviews you can about your brand and products.

STEP 2: Read through each review.

  • If you LIKE a word/phrase someone used to describe you, I want you to write that word/phrase somewhere IN THE MIDDLE of the rock. 
  • If you DON’T like a word/phrase used to describe your brand, I want you to write it AROUND THE BORDER of the rock.
rough rock with text in the middle

STEP 3: Repeat Step 2 until you have a rock containing all the keywords that accurately reflect what others are posting about you online.

STEP 4: Then pull out your brainstorming paper. Add any items not reflected in customer feedback and everything that is redundant.

Again, anything you want to keep as part of your brand, write toward the center. Anything you want gone, write around the edge.

STEP 5: Once your rock is fully filled out, start chipping away at the edges.

The outside frame of the rough edges of your rock should contain all the qualities you don’t want to amplify in your brand. So now it’s time to cut them out of your brand in one of two ways:

  • Remove the cause for the experience
  • Remove the expectation you will provide the experience

How To Clean Up Your Reputation

FOR EXAMPLE: Let’s say a customer gave a small business owner a 3-star review because their product didn’t ship right away. Their order took 3 DAYS to ship and the customer was mad enough about this to leave an unhappy review.


How can the brand owner who has this complaint around the rough edges of his rock address the issue and limit negative reviews in the future?


Remove the cause: Change policy to always ship within 24 hours.

Remove the expectation: Create clear, branded language that items ship within 3 business days, visible both in item descriptions and at check out.

Once the issue is addressed with an on-brand deliverable, the business owner can chip that rough edge off the business’s reputation rock and move on to the next rough edge.

But let’s say there’s a negative claim that’s just a big, fat lie coming from someone looking to get something for free. Or maybe it’s a competitor throwing shade on a burner account.

These are free cuts. You’ll address these items in a different way on a different day but, if they’re not based in reality, get rid of them for now.

Only address genuine feedback with your bedrock.

AND REMEMBER: Just because someone has a critique, doesn’t mean you need to bend over backwards as a brand to address it. In each case, simply decide whether you want to:

  • Remove the cause for the complaint
  • Remove the expectation behind the complaint

FOR EXAMPLE: Let’s say you sell hiking shoes and someone complains that they’re not waterproof. And it’s true: they’re not.

But someone bought the shoes, crossed a river in them, then had a miserable hike afterward.

To remove the cause for the complaint, you’d have to make the shoes waterproof. But that’s literally not the design of them, so removing the cause for the complaint isn’t reasonable.

Changing the expectation is. Especially if current ad copy skirts around how the shoes perform on all terrains.

To limit future negative reviews, you could change the language of the ad copy to say something like: The perfect hiking shoe in dry climates, then remove any language that implies your shoe does well in water and move on.

Make your promises simple and clear so that any reasonable customer has your back on complaints that are off-brand.

If you position your shoe as the perfect desert shoe and someone leaves a review crying that it doesn’t swim well, all your target customers are going to think, Uh. Yeah. It’s a desert hiking shoe. It’s made to breathe and wick away moisture, not swim. Duh.

And the negative review might actually end up supporting your claim and get your a sale.

You don’t need to get rid of negative reviews. You just need to be so deliberate in your delivery that all negative comments are off-brand demands.

To do this, REPEAT the refining process of removing all the negative labels associated with your brand until you have a smooth edge around your rock and ONLY on-brand words and phrases in the middle.

Smooth rectangle of a Reputation Bedrock

Once all the off-brand critiques are addressed and removed, the positive deliverables remaining represent your reputation bedrock.

Smooth the resulting shape out until it’s level and perfect to build a mansion on. Then bury it in the ground — metaphorically speaking.

No one needs to see this but you. You never need to speak of this rock or explain what’s written on it to anyone else.

You have the firm ground you need to build on. No matter how the market shakes around you, you know what you’re delivering and your customers know what they can expect when you deliver.

That’s your bedrock.

Now it’s time to build up.


Build Your Brand Mansion: A Free Step-by-Step Guide to Standing Out

Let’s talk about what a brand IS and ISN’T and how designing blueprints for a Brand Mansion will make you stand out from your competition.

A Tale of Two Battling Businesses

Once upon this one time, there were two restaurants that competed for the business of all the tourists that passed through their tiny town.

One day, a young family drove up and parked in the lot between their two businesses.

“Eat here!” the owner of the first restaurant called out. “We’re a family diner that’s been in business for 60 years.”

“Eat here!” the second owner invited with a wave. “We make authentic Italian cuisine from scratch every morning. We’ve won Best Italian in the State four years running.”

“Oh? We love Italian!” the father said before turning back to the first owner. “What do you make?”

We make everything!” the first owner replied, looking at the small family. “You name it, we can cook it. Burgers! Spaghetti! We even have lobster, if you’re feeling fancy!”

“Oh. What is your best dish?” the wife asked the first owner. 

“Whatever you order!” the man replied happily. “Everything we make is amazing!”

“How about you?” the wife asked, turning to the diner’s competitor. 

“Well,” he replied. “Our spaghetti with monster meatballs is easily the most popular with children, but our Chicken Parmesan is to die for and has won more than one state competition. Come in and find out why!”

Which restaurant would you try?

Where do you think the family ate?

Why Branding Matters

What is branding, and why does it matter?

Stated briefly: Branding is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.

flat mouth emoji

If your branding is weak, no one has heard of you and no one is talking about you.

irked emoji

If your branding is poor, strangers mention you but never say the same thing (and probably ramble on about things you wish they wouldn’t).

happy emoji

If your branding is good, strangers mention you and can recall at least one on-brand detail.

star eyes emoji

If your branding is excellent, they can recite your language like a script you paid them to read.

canceled emoji

And, in this day and age, if your branding is false, you are dead to Millennials and Gen Z. Torched. Canceled.


This why branding matters.

Why Do So Many Companies Have Poor Branding?

When a business’s branding is poor, it shows the company hasn’t done the work to figure out:

  • who they are
  • whom they serve
  • what problem they solve
  • why customers should choose them

Weak brands spend all their time, effort, and energy trying to filter everyone INTO their customer filter.

Strong branding requires you to position yourself in a way that filters some potential customers OUT.

FOR EXAMPLE: Think back to the “Tale of the Two Battling Businesses”

Which of the two restaurants in the small town would you try?

The diner in the story is banking on everyone who is not in the mood for Italian. They do this by offering everything else you could possibly want while proclaiming it’s all equally “amazing!”

In contrast, the Italian restaurant is banking on everyone interested in trying award-winning Italian food. If Italian isn’t your thing, then they let the diner serve you.

This is a power move.

Not only is the Italian restaurant more likely to attract ideal customers, but just think of the inventory each owner must buy to support their menus.

Who has a more manageable and predictable budget?

NOW IMAGINE if there were more than two restaurants in that little town.

Let’s say there was also a McDonald’s, Wendy’s, and a Chipotle.

Where do you think the traveling family would eat then?

The more you’re surrounded by people who know exactly what customer they’re aiming for, the more likely you are to disappear from the podium of competition.

And if you’re not competing up to current standards, you’re not in business.

This is why weak branding is a recipe for failure for all online businesses.

What Makes Branding Powerful?

Excellent branding requires an objective analysis of:

  • Business strengths
  • Unique Selling Propositions (USPs)
  • Product weaknesses
  • Company personality
  • Customer wants & needs

Getting this analysis in black-and-white of words and numbers takes some mental heavy lifting. This can be quite difficult and require nerd-level research, which is why it so often goes undone. In its place, business owners chase trends or do things that sound good to them.

One of the trappings of poor branding is to market general platitudes that are likely to resonate with 80% of everybody to support their growth. Poorly branded companies then cast wide nets then bank on their massive scopes to rake in something worthwhile.

There was a time when this kind of worked. But those days are over.

If you’re selling on the internet, you need a strong brand — which many confuse to be a cool logo and a few hyperbolic descriptive words.


Remember: Your brand is what people say when you’re not in the room.

Branding is NOT your logo. Your brand is what people say when they recognize your logo. Your job is to get them to say exactly what you want them to say without having to think about it.

This doesn’t happen when you market to 80% of everybody, nor does it happen when you embrace your own hyperbole.

So when does it happen?

When you’re ready to take off your rose-colored glasses and get down to the brass tacks about how you serve your customer and whose lives you improve.

Strong Brands are the Result of Focused Grunt Work

Strong branding requires knowing both your audience and your product inside-out. This understanding is then used to find the language and imagery that connects with them in an internet city filled with competition.

Questions you need to be able to answer about your audience are:

  • Who are your target customers?
  • What are their goals?
  • What demographics do they belong to?
  • What are their pain points?
  • What are their motivators for purchasing?

Designing a sustainable brand means comparing these answers against your company strengths and skillsets.

You need to ask yourself:

  • What do you do best?
  • What kind of valuable content can you create regularly?
  • What do you enjoy promoting?
  • Where do you need to invest in trendspotting?

There is an entire world out there fighting for your customer’s attention. If you want people to remember you and give you their money, you need to make their world a better place in an ongoing way.

Because the benefits you trade for their time, money, and attention will become your brand.

All Designs Need a Framework

All great brands are carefully designed. There is no “right” design to use as an infrastructure; it only matters that the metaphor supports the concepts it’s being used to uphold.

FOR EXAMPLE: When I was a PR Manager at a publishing company, I used a spider web to demonstrate the effectiveness of each author’s marketing plan. When I was helping local businesses brand, I used a pyramid as the brand framework.

Now the market has shifted a bit and I’m going to use a Brand Mansion as the metaphor to bring your brand’s vision from a mental vision to the third dimension. I think you’ll like it.

But even if you find the imagery a bit cheesy, you won’t forget it. And that’s the point.

Because being unforgettable is one of keys to building a strong brand and the term “Brand Mansion” is hard to un-hear as a concept.

And that’s the goal.

Building Your Brand Mansion

Let’s build mansions together, shall we?

Your mansion can look any way you’d like, so long as every building block you include has a purpose.

We’ll talk more about those in the next post.

For now, all you need to know is: Just like building a REAL mansion, building a Brand Mansion requires taking action on your blueprints to build something in reality.

Random work in random ways on random days doesn’t cut it.

Concrete action is required to create concrete results. If you want 100 people who have never met you to all say the same thing about you, you have to give them all the same experience.

Wherever they are in the world, each customer needs to connect with you in a designed way. Only then will you start to see the results you’ve been working for.

Proven benefits of establishing a strong brand include:

  • LONGER engagement on your website
  • DECREASED bounce rates
  • INCREASED backlinks and social media shares
  • IMPROVED Google ranking

And, most importantly:


I’m about to do this for myself while showing you how to do it


So subscribe to this blog and follow me on Twitter to design and grow a brand that stands apart in a sea of competition.


* indicates required

Next Post: Establishing Reputation Bedrock