Which item should I avoid at Chipotle?

Why entrepreneurs can't ignore their brand



"Brand equity"

“Our brand is world famous”

These statements make most entrepreneurs and employees roll their eyes. You keep your word brand for being overrated and thinking that the brand doesn't have a lot of value outside of the company.

Far from it, because the brand is your company's most valuable asset, but also the most vulnerable.

In this article I want to explain why the brand is so important, what happens when the brand image suffers and how you can strengthen your make.

What is a brand?

"Your brand is the rumors that go behind your back about you." - Jeff Bezos

A company's brand is considered an intangible asset because, unlike office equipment and production machines, it is a non-physical object.

Although it is a non-physical object to which no material value can be assigned, it is one of the most important and fragile assets of your company. A single mistake or PR scandal can damage your brand and thus the good reputation of your company.

Why is the brand so important?

The brand is the figurehead of your company. If you operate an airline, it should be known for its reliability and quality. A PR disaster like United Airlines' should be avoided because these incidents can damage your company's reputation.

Your brand image, which you have painstakingly built up over a long period of time, can be destroyed in a single incident and result in a significant loss of sales Risk factor stated in the annual report. But that also means that even small businesses like yours should definitely not neglect their brand.

A positive brand image is not created overnight, the process can even take several years, but the good reputation of your company can be destroyed within a few days.

What happens when a brand's reputation is destroyed?

To understand the full extent of branding on a company, we need to look at the impact of brand reputation destruction. I will now give a few well-known examples of this.


If you had asked any American in the spring of 2015 what they thought of Chipotle, they would certainly have mentioned the delicious burritos. There was a good relationship between the quality of the products and the prices. This person would then have gone straight to the nearest Chipotle and ordered a burrito.

If you had asked the same person again in 2016, they would have said that eating at Chipotle involves certain risks and would have recommended better Mexican alternatives.

Why is that?

The numerous cases of E. coli infections in Chipotle restaurants.

Of course, these infections also harmed the brand (I mean, would you still vouch for the quality of the food?) And accordingly led to a sharp drop in sales. Here is the company's value after the infection outbreak:

The Chipotle company's share price and the aftermath of the outbreak

This can happen when your company's brand image suffers. The value of your company can plummet and as a start-up you could even go bankrupt if you lose the trust of your customers and investors.

Chipotle is still struggling with the aftermath of the outbreak and the sanitary conditions at the time. As stated earlier, a strong brand can take several years to build, but it can be destroyed in a matter of days. Chipotle experienced this firsthand and is still recovering from the consequences today. In order to regain its good reputation, the company has to work very hard for a long time.


Equifax has faced similar problems. In this case, however, it was not about food, but and the security of personal information.

Due to inadequate security measures, the Equifax company fell victim to hackers who sold the private information of millions of US customers to cyber criminals.

When the hack got public, it made for numerous negative headlines and brought the company's inadequate security precautions to the fore.

Since then, Equifax has of course taken steps to regain customer trust and rebuild brand reputation, but it will take many years to do so.

Would you use Equifax? Probably not because you don't see your personal data adequately protected.


Do you still remember Yahoo! You might even still use it. I haven't used it in a long time because there are much better products out there now.

Yahoo used to have a very strong brand. The Yahoo brand was known for its classic color scheme, yodel, beautiful design, and many features.

That was in the early 2000s. Then it crashed. Yahoo hired Marissa Mayer, a former manager of Google, but she too could no longer save the company.

Yahoo was then bought by Verizon. The company still exists, but its best days are over.

How did that happen?

Hacks, malware attacks, privacy concerns, criticism, and a product that can't keep up with the competition's product ultimately led to the crash.

While Yahoo is still one of the most visited websites, the brand has suffered irreversible damage.


Travis Kalanick invented a service that changed the world as we know it forever. Thanks to Uber, you can order a ride with a single click on your mobile phone. The company took the world by storm and grew into a multi-billion dollar company in just a few years.

And then came the PR nightmare.

The company's managing director was caught pissing off a driver.

The New York Times then published an article that didn't make Travis look particularly good. This was followed by another article alleging that Travis knew about the sexual harassment issues at the company and knowingly did nothing.

The Apple CEO threatened to remove Uber from the App Store because the company had violated data protection regulations.

Travis Kalanick may not be well behaved, but he is without question a very talented entrepreneur. However, as Uber grew and the company's brand awareness increased, the board decided to remove Kalanick, after which he announced his resignation as managing director.

Uber has a new CEO. Although he will have to work for a long time to regain trust in the brand, he will be supported by a strong company.

The lawsuit against KISSmetrics

Even I've already seen a scandal. One of my companies, KISSmetrics, has been sued. That hurt the brand and is still a problem today.

From this I learned that a company's brand is a company's most important asset. This asset needs to be protected because a strong brand is everything.

Now I would like to introduce you to a few companies that have a particularly strong brand because you can take an example from these companies.

The brand building

Building a strong brand is the first step towards a strong company. Customers who get to know your company need to know what your company stands for.

What does your company stand for?

That is the most important step. Successful companies have brands that stand for something. Here are a few examples:

  • Zappos stands for excellent customer service
  • Virgin Airlines stands for stress-free air travel
  • Whole Foods stands for healthy, organic food
  • Patagonia stands for environmentally friendly outdoor clothing
  • Firefox stands for data protection

You need to know what your brand stands for. “Selling high quality food” is not enough, because every company can claim that.

“Selling organic foods of the highest quality” is a good statement because the customer knows immediately what to expect in your grocery store. He wouldn't expect Coca Cola or M & Ms, but natural, organic foods. If he wants to buy this food, he'll visit your grocery store because your brand stands for quality and organic food.

Many companies claim they have the best product and many of these companies have dozens of products. But you cannot be the market leader for twelve products at the same time. You also have to be able to make compromises.

In this video, Scott Belsky explains why companies sometimes have to cut corners in order to be able to take over the market leadership in other areas. You should definitely take a look at it.

You have to be able to compromise. In order to offer good customer service, you need to charge higher prices in order to maintain your profit margin.

Apple is a good example of this. Apple products are known for their excellent quality. They are robust, have hardly any flaws and often last for years. Poor product quality scandals would cause considerable damage, so measures are being taken to protect the brand.

When the iPhone battery issues became known, Apple went above and beyond to win back the trust of its customers. Each customer was written to personally and each of these customers was offered a price reduction of 50 euros, so the battery could be replaced for 29 euros. Apple makes less profit this way, but customers ran into the Apple stores in droves to have their batteries replaced.

You can learn something from this, namely that you should always honestly admit mistakes to your customers (even if it is just a misunderstanding). You can offer your customers a discount or something else to help regain their trust. Eight out of ten customers respond to your offer and you couldn't please the other two customers anyway.

Your brand has to be remembered by customers and stand out from the crowd.

When your brand stands for something, you can convey a clear and strong message to your customers.

The brand message

So you know what your brand stands for. Then we can now work on your brand message.

Do you still remember that viral video?

A brand is being advertised in this video.

The video shows Trent Kimball of Texas Armoring. The company manufactures armored vehicles. If you wanted to buy an armored vehicle (you probably don't want to, but the principle is at stake) then you wouldn't get around this company. In the video, the owner of the company crouches behind a windshield, which is then shot at.

With this, Kimball sends a strong message. You don't have to take such drastic measures, but you still have to somehow convey your brand message in a believable and unforgettable way.

Here are more examples of successful companies that are able to get their brand message across.


The message from Spotify is simple. The brand's slogan is “music for every taste” because there really is something for everyone. It doesn't matter who you are or what music you're listening to, Spotify has just the right choice for you.


Lifelock wants two things connect with each other - Data breach and the name Lifelock. When you hear a data breach, you should automatically think of Lifelock. The company protects your personal data from unauthorized access.

Where the brand message should be conveyed

Many B2C companies place their brand message on the website or in advertising campaigns. Many of these companies are also represented on social media.

Companies like Skittles, Wendy's, GoPro, Denny's and many more have a particularly large number of fans and followers on social networks. Many of these fans found these companies on social media and would otherwise have no knowledge of their existence. Not only do these companies share special offers, they use social media to promote their Brand personality to give special expression.

Taco Bell is known for this. When you hear the name Taco Bell, you immediately think of the relaxed restaurant and get hungry. Social media strengthen this perception.

Now let's turn to the last step in branding. This is probably the most important step because if you skip it, you will lose the trust of your customers and your company will not recover from it anytime soon.

The products and services that define your brand

Some business owners claim that the brand is overrated. They think that products and services automatically lead to a brand.

They believe that the public perception of a company cannot be influenced and that it depends solely on the choice of products. When you change your product choices, you change your brand perception.

But that's only partially true. What bothers me most is the passive attitude about this statement. That would mean that you leave the message of your brand to pure chance.

Rather, you should work on a brand message and then develop products and services that strengthen and support that message. Just think of the Whole Foods supermarket chain. Everyone knows that this is an organic supermarket chain. Would this supermarket sell Milka chocolate or Pepsi? That would damage the brand of the company and the regular customers would surely be furious.

That is why the brand message is so important. With the right brand message, you can promote your company appropriately and attract the right customers. These customers know what a company stands for.

In the words of Warren Buffett:

"Your premium brand has to offer customers something special, otherwise you won't win customers."

In this video I explain why you should build a brand and how to measure the success of a brand with Google.


Lots of business owners and executives hold up Branding for sheer waste of time.

But your company is inevitably linked to a brand. Your brand reflects the perception and opinion of your customers about your company.

Brands are vulnerable, however. One small mistake can do a lot of damage to your brand, so good PR skills are extremely important. But a good brand also lasts a lifetime.

How did you build and strengthen your company's brand?