Steven Pearlstein’s Washington Post article about Goldman Sachs ends with an ominous declaration (spoiler alert) “Goldman has fully monetized the value of its reputation. Anyone who pays such a premium is a fool.” He brings up an interesting dilemma. When has a company leveraged its own name too much? When does the value of the brand actually exceed the value of the product or services?
One could argue this is now happening at Toyota. It certainly already happened with Enron. But it may not only occur when companies take part unethical behaviors or put customers and employees at risk. It can also happen when your brand is so overly visible that it begins to lose meaning. Or when other brands can offer the same product/service at a better value.
Is there a way to protect a brand from becoming “over-monetized”? Three possible ways:
- Don’t put your reputation behind something you don’t fully understand or have a hand in making more valuable (not less, as in the Goldman short-selling case).
- Have policies for how your brand will be used to “back” other brands (including donations, social media use, etc.)
- Frequently vet your brand partnerships and brand extensions—whether you are a for-profit or non-profit—to see if they are still protecting your good name and protecting mutual value.
It would be a shame if the good Goldman name joined so many others that have lost their shine of late. But we all have something to learn from the experience.