Many professionals are trying to figure out what awaits us in 2021. There are many possible outcomes for the year ahead, and different experts express completely different opinions about the subject. Let’s take social behaviour: some experts claim that people will be very careful with society reopening and will remain closed off for a long time, even if it is no longer necessary. And other experts say that the festive mood of the Roaring Twenties awaits us. There are also several predictions regarding business reorganisation, but one thing is for sure: a company’s image has never been more important than it will be in 2021.
When it comes to building a corporate image, perceptions of the topic vary from country to country, but in most places, this basic business development task is still seen as a pastime by large international companies, or at least businesses with global ambitions. Many times, business owners aren’t really aware of what image-building is exactly, and they mostly think of TV commercials or magazine ads or that reach huge crowds, if possible. And, of course, there is a basis for this misconception, because that is exactly how it works for Coca-Cola, for example. That’s because Coca-Cola wants to send a message to everyone that everyone should drink their products. But it is very rare for a product, especially for a locally owned company, to have such a far-reaching product or service.
The other misconception stems from the world of startups, mainly the companies that achieved tremendous success in the last two decades. There is always a face of the company, the discoverer of the new invention who is the centre of attention, who is constantly making presentations and issuing statements, upon whose image and cult of personality the company is built. And a lot of business owners hate this kind, and especially this amount, of spotlight, so they have given up on this path. In most cases, they are right to do so as the era of the miracle startups is over. This does not mean that it is no longer possible to build a successful startup at this level, but that completely different communication—and as a result, image—effects dominate the market.
Whether we want to or not
However, it is worth it to rethink image-building for everyone who owns a company, wants to own one, or plays a decisive role at one, because whether we consciously plan or not, and whether we want to or not, our image is continuously building. And where that image is heading matters when it comes to company results. I’ve managed the development of many companies throughout my life, and the fundamental issue in most cases is that the owner doesn’t want the spotlight, they do not want to make a fool of themselves on stage. So, at most, the owner communicates under the company name, which of course is still better than nothing, but in today’s world, the impact of a faceless image is minimal. Moreover, since social media exists and info is readily accessible, collecting data on a company’s ownership background is no big deal. Of course, people only do it if it’s interesting enough. I mean, if the company itself or its product is interesting. However, it is much more sensible and effective to manage this process and direct those interested in us toward the information we want to share. Where we come from as an owner, why we started the company, what our message is, what our background is: these can become cemented after the right level of success. And if a company with a strong market position does not have enough information about the owner, it is suspicious to everyone. The days are gone when it was enough to be so mystical that we could hide in the background. Today, in every case, someone needs to be out on the stage. Of course, many people try to balance this by using a company manager as the company’s face, but the only question is how much risk an owner takes if they rely on a person who may leave the company or who the owner may need to fire one day. And of course, that doesn’t mean that every business owner has to stand out in front of crowds and deliver huge speeches on an even bigger stage! But in any case, it means that they have to make sure that the right amount of information is available about them on the channel that suits their thoughts and individuality, as they see most fit.
Image and the crisis
So far, the ideas always are valid for modern business development, but when we talk about a state of crisis that is currently going on in the minds of customers, it is all exponentially true. People are looking for reliable products and services since incomes have fallen, and consumer spending has shrunk even more due to fear. In such a situation, trust in the product is more important than ever. Buyers, be them B2B or B2C, are looking more deeply into the seller’s background. They try to gather even more information, and they want to buy from a company with strong professional knowledge. In this situation, the image of the business owner plays a key role. It can be clearly shown that in the case of decisions made during crises, personal image and trust in people become more important than loyalty or trust in the product. Anyway, we could say that now is not the time to be shy if one wants to emerge from the crisis successfully. On the other hand, the solutions that rely on massive campaigns, usually with huge budgets, that appear all over the place will certainly not work for the customers. After all, customers view this as simple deception by someone who wants to hide reality via a lot of marketing money. A product cannot be that good when it needs that much support. On the other hand, a company that wants to develop in the coming years cannot go wrong by being on one of the appropriate communication platforms aimed at their primary target group.