Brand Vs. Reputation: What’s The Difference?

%social engagement %social listeningIf all the talk about branding, image, reputation, personality, identity, motivation and marketing has your head spinning, relax: You’re not alone.

Lindsay’s post, The Other Side of The Personal Branding Coin, touches on the discussion—and confusion—around personal branding.

Is it the sum of the way you act, the way you look and the things you do? Is it shaped by your motivations, beliefs, and goals?

And if these factors shape your personal brand, how does that good ol’ thing called “your reputation” fit?

“overall quality or character as seen or judged by people in general” (source:

“I think the most valuable application of a “personal brand” is during a job search, when you are presenting yourself as a candidate and trying to sell yourself to companies as the best person for their team. Beyond that, you’re building and maintaining a reputation online.” Julie Tyios wrote in the comments.

Social media strategist Ken Muller observed: “Solopreneurs and small business owners are often inseparable from their business, that their personal brand often takes on more importance than their business brand.”

Given points like these, where does your personal brand end and your reputation begin? Is there still a difference?

Where the confusion started

In an article in Forbes, branding pro Jerry McLaughlin suggests the confusion around branding exists because our understanding of it has evolved.

“In the first sense of the word…a brand is simply the non-generic name for a product that tells us the source of the product,” he wrote. “In earlier times, we referred to these non-generic names as “brand names.””

“Beginning in the later part of the 20th century, marketers began to grasp there was more to the perception of distinctive products and services than their names,” McLaughlin continued.

“Marketers realized that they could create a specific perception in customers’ minds concerning the qualities and attributes of each non-generic product or service. They took to calling this perception “the brand.””

Where that leaves branding and reputation-building

I asked my networks for their thoughts about brand versus reputation and one friend referenced the difference between advertising and word of mouth: Even great advertising won’t save a business if it’s known for selling poor-quality products or offering terrible customer service.

I think there’s a fine line that separates your brand and your reputation: Your brand is what you put out in the world through the choices and actions within your control. Your reputation is how other people interpret your brand.

In a post explaining how to value your brand and reputation, marketing expert Christopher Penn summarized it like this: “Brand power makes people search for you, and reputation (and value perception) makes people convert.”

What do you think: Do you differentiate between brand and reputation? Or is it just splitting hairs? Weigh-in in the comments section below.

image: Karen Eliot

About Amy Sept

Amy Sept is a freelance contributor to the Jugnoo blog. The owner of Nimbyist Communications, she combines her natural geekiness with more than a decade of professional communications experience to help non-profits and small businesses build awareness in print and online. You can meet her on Twitter and on LinkedIn.


  1. Well done explanation. I don’t think you are splitting hairs as the two are intertwined. A brand is associated with a person or company but the reputation of that brand can be good or bad. I think Christopher Penn sums it up perfectly. Today, reputation is a vital part of marketing and what type of reputation you have online could destroy your brand or convert into additional brand loyalty.


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