Visiting Don Italo’s workshop located in an old house in a modest neighbourhood in Downtown Lima, Peru was always a pleasurable adventure that I didn’t want to miss when I was a kid. I remember that Don Italo was tall and slim and he always dressed immaculately: an unpretentious black suit, a white shirt and a bow tie.
Don Italo was a tailor, and a great businessman. He tailored every garment with true passion and dedication. His craftsmanship and good taste was remarkable, and his enthusiasm and attention to detail was unique. He transformed every piece of fabric into a masterpiece, more importantly every masterpiece was that one special episode on a client’s journey, a wedding, a baptism, a celebration. He was not only a tailor he also had a great understanding of his clients, for him every fitting was an opportunity to develop a strong relationship with his client. Today he would be called an “entrepreneur,” but to me he was more than that, he was a dream maker. Furthermore, Italo’s character was of a man that embraced quality, gratitude and happiness.
My grandmother was fascinated with Italo’s artistry, as well as with the perfect cup of espresso with a little bit of milk that she enjoyed during every visit. I believe that she shared her experience with Italo in many casual conversations not only to my mother but probably also many of her friends and other relatives; a perfect example of the power of worth-of-mouth marketing. Believe me, my grandmother didn’t like to share her service providers, but she was and advocate, an influencer and she didn’t even realize that.
At the time my grandmother met Don Italo, he was a new immigrant in Peru from Bologna, Italy. He was just starting out investing all what he had on his business; his most valuable assets were his talent and his kindness. He installed his workshop renting the garage space of a relative. His sister was his personal assistant and she perfectly mastered the use of a heavy charcoal iron. One of Italo’s brothers-in-law, who was learning the basics of dressmaking, was also responsible for delivering every piece to their clients’ homes in a small blue Fiat. He also delivered thank-you notes and made other special gestures, like fixing a missing button on-the-spot, or giving a special symbolic gift or a small box of home-made cookies for a client’s birthday.
People and organizations should place primary focus on their brand, because this is the first point of reference in the public, a brand name can be the key to the future.
I remember him perfectly because he made my first suit and shirt. As a generous gesture, another of his distinctive characteristics, he monogramed my initials on the cuff of my white shirt and included a complementary blue and red bow tie in the order, because I was going to need one and he was aware of that.
What sets Don Italo apart is the experience he provided. Everything was about his clients, both internal and external. The people working with him were as happy as he was, because Don Italo understood the uniqueness of every person and the importance of connection creating lifetime values. The events of this story occurred somewhere around thirty years ago. I can only imagine if the scenario repeated itself today, probably with the help of the Internet and social media, Italo would be one of the most successful tailors and businessmen out there.
Don Italo’s story goes beyond measuring, sewing, stitching, sizing and making adjustments. His story represents how a man’s character helped to build his own brand, with his talent and his professionalism serving as the principal characteristics. The success of his name was based on his good reputation.
I firmly believe that any organization’s profitability and success, both tangible and intangible, relies on the opinion of its publics. This opinion is translated into the reputation of that organization and it is the organization’s most valuable asset, even more in this day-and-age with the advent of the continuous news cycle and the two-second sound bite. Presently people have the power to express their opinion, their happiness or unhappiness at any time and anywhere using all different social media platforms. Those opinions go around the globe instantaneously, and as a result, they are capable of enhancing, changing, maintaining or ruining a reputation.
From Character to Brand
According to Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, “character” is a mark, a distinctive quality. This definition can help us to identify the distinguishing unique aspects about an individual or an organization. It is interesting to apply this identification process as an exercise, as a first step to recognize those marks that can contribute to building a brand. Have you ever thought what is your character? Can you describe it?
In his book, The Global Brand, Nigel Hollins refers to the definition of UK-based brand-planning guru Paul Feldwick, who defines brand as “simply a collection of perceptions in the mind of the consumer.” Going further, Hollins completes the definition with the idea that “this collection of perceptions must somehow make the associated product or service more salient, more interesting or more compelling than it will be otherwise.”
Both ideas linked together form a different concept of branding where it is important to highlight the extra ingredient of ‘uniqueness.’ This new concept highlights the importance of treating the brand as part of a deal or a compromise. And it is here where we have to move carefully, and we have to recognize that we are not alone anymore.
During the process of recognition, from those outcomes we can help our mind to decide. If we decide that we want to be first and succeed, we can develop a plan and make it happen. If we want to be just one more participant, then that is possible too.
It is all about #reputation
The definition of “reputation” is considered widely by different disciplines and represented from different angles. From the formal point of view of intellectuals and researchers, to contemporaries’ statements, reputation will always be a guarantee; it has to be a complete set of trust values.
Brian Solis, one of the most prominent thought leaders, digital analyst, and award-winning author in new media, writes in his blog about the link between brand and reputation: “Brand and reputation management is now a systematic process in our daily routine of listening, learning, and participating. We are responsible for our personal brand as well as the corporate brand we represent. Securing that online brand and investing in and cultivating an impeccable and influential reputation are critical to establishing and maintaining a consistent, strategic, and complementary presence from network to network. (Online Reputation and Brand Management Starts with Identity www.briansolis.com)
We are responsible for our personal brand as well as the corporate brand we represent.
Adding to Solis’ statement, it is important to mention that in today’s business world, corporate leaders must not only be concerned with building the perfect “brand-name” that will make happy shareholders. They must also ensure they are establishing a healthy brand with a strong positive reputation, because that reputation will be the guarantee for happy shareholders, stakeholders and their environment. We are capable of writing our own story, and organizations have that opportunity too. Leaders should understand and be careful not to underestimate the importance of reputation.
In the article Four Bitter Facts You Should Understand About Your Reputation, business psychology professor and author Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, explains that “most people’s reputation is still predominantly determined by what they do offline rather than online. From high-stake performance instances, such as job interviews, client pitches, and critical work projects, to everyday patterns, such as the way we work, relax, and interact with others, our reputation is the working model of our personality others use to make sense of our habits and predict what we are likely to do.”
I believe that whatever we do represents who we are. People and organizations should place primary focus on their brand, because this is the first point of reference in the public, a brand name can be the key to the future. In any situation, whether it be with family, with friends, with employers or colleagues, our name is important. It works the same way for an organization. In many ways, the world is not the big space anymore that it once was. We now live in a globalized reality where technology and new forms of communications are changing the way organizations have to think about their brand. New media and social media will take care of promoting our reputation and also bring the world together far more closely and swiftly than ever before.
It is undeniable that we make many of our daily decisions based on the reputation of a brand. Reputation is essential and important. Building a reputation can take many years and hard work, like my grandmothers’ tailor Don Italo. However, destroying a lifelong reputation can happen in an instant. In some cases, rebuilding a reputation can require starting over again. Crises can, and do happen but if the individual or organization has a solid reputation and a plan to protect it, the results will always be positive.