If your company were a person, who would it be? Are you seen as ruthless, and is that good or bad? What is your corporate level of machismo?
Such questions are often used as part of branding exercises. At Manchester Business School, Professor Gary Davies and his team have taken this further, and devised their own personality test for companies as a way of measuring corporate reputation.
Companies, like people, are multi-dimensional, and the Manchester Business School measure enables your company character to be assessed in 7 different dimensions.
Corporate Eye recently interviewed Professor Davies to talk about corporate reputation and about how companies should portray their corporate personality online, where—necessarily, at the moment—the range of senses that can be engaged is narrower than in an offline experience.
Do listen: the interview also covers emotion, credibility and CSR, and ends by discussing the impact of western business culture upon China – and the future impact that Chinese brands will have upon us.
I’ve broken the interview down into bite-size pieces, so that you can quickly find particular points you’d like to hear about, but I’ve also included the whole interview and a transcript.
Part 1:Seven dimensions of the corporate character
- corporate branding:product branding
- measures of corporate character
- seven dimensions of corporate personality
“If I say that Company X is trustworthy, I’m giving you two pieces of information – I’m telling you how I think that company will behave towards me in the future, and I’m also telling you how I think I will behave towards that company”[audio:https://www.corporate-eye.com/main/audio/mbs-part-1.mp3] Length: 14:57
Download: Professor Gary Davies interview: part 1
Part 2: Communicating corporate personality
- mission, vision and values can express personality
- current transactional nature of websites
- building in enjoyment and pleasure
“[The corporate website is] the easiest place to go to try and find out an answer to the question ‘Well, who are you?’…
“How many websites are a joy to use? Give you a real emotional buzz when you use them? Not many.”[audio:https://www.corporate-eye.com/main/audio/mbs-part-2.mp3] Length: 8:24
Download: Professor Gary Davies interview: part 2
Part 3: Personification and the corporate story
- the appeal of the personality
- making it personal: BG Group, Stora Enso
“[The website] told me here’s the company, here’s the MD, the CEO, the founder—probably only a two-man business anyway—but recognising that the CEO literally personifies the company.”[audio:https://www.corporate-eye.com/main/audio/mbs-part-3.mp3] Length: 3:27
Download: Professor Gary Davies interview: part 3
Part 4: Social media and companies
- learning from what people say about you and changing behaviours as a result
“Start looking at what are people saying about you, and how they see you. And it’s no good saying ‘They are wrong’: they have their point of view”[audio:https://www.corporate-eye.com/main/audio/mbs-part-4.mp3] Length: 3:53
Download: Professor Gary Davies interview: part 4
Part 5: Using emotion for credibility
“You can only, in my view, approach a crisis by recognising that the people that you’re talking to are in a state of high emotion and you’ve got to use emotion back. They’ve got to believe that you are as bothered about this issue as they are.”[audio:https://www.corporate-eye.com/main/audio/mbs-part-5.mp3] Length: 2:53
Download: Professor Gary Davies interview: part 5
Part 6: Impact of CSR on employees and customers
- should corporates have a social role other than maximising profit?
- impact of CSR on employees: Marks and Spencer
- building CSR into the business: Land Securities
“The biggest impact of CSR reports and CSR actions – which is more important than the report itself – is on employees … We think there’s a chain effect here. CSR influences the employee and the employee in a service organisation influences the customer.”[audio:https://www.corporate-eye.com/main/audio/mbs-part-6.mp3] Length: 5:30
Download: Professor Gary Davies interview: part 6
Part 7: The human face of major companies
- importance of video: talking head vs. interview/conversation
- fun and the corporate brand: United Airlines, Zurich Financial, Virgin, British Airways
- person to person interaction vs. online
“If I go online and I can’t find anything from one of the heads of the organisation, I think ‘Well, why not?’ Because you go onto YouTube and you can find it … Why can’t we see the human side of the head of these large corporates?”[audio:https://www.corporate-eye.com/main/audio/mbs-part-7.mp3] Length: 8:03
Download: Professor Gary Davies interview: part 7
Part 8: Western influence on Chinese business
- Entrepreneurs in China
- Cultural weight carried by brands
- Cost of establishing global branding
“That’s one reason perhaps why there’s so many Chinese in the West now, just trying to understand how we think. Because we will be the consumers for their brands that are going to follow in the next wave.”
“Deng Xiaoping, I think, had this lovely saying…’We’re crossing a river and we’re feeling for the next stone under the water’. Lovely metaphor. So we know which direction we’re going in, we’re not too sure about our footing.”[audio:https://www.corporate-eye.com/main/audio/mbs-part-8.mp3] Length: 6:53
Download: Professor Gary Davies interview: part 8
Part 9: Culture shock and loss of control
- Showing people the power of the media: Tiananmen Square; Egypt
- The power of the internet mob: Cooks Source
“Of the 1,000 students doing Masters degrees at Manchester Business School this year, 400 will be Chinese.”
“When companies could assume that if there was something that they were trying to hide they could at least hide it for a year or two, you can’t now rely upon hiding it for a minute or two.”[audio:https://www.corporate-eye.com/main/audio/mbs-part-9.mp3] Length: 6:48
Download: Professor Gary Davies interview: part 9
Here’s the whole interview, for you to listen to while driving home, or while jogging in the park; and the transcript, for those who prefer to read.[audio:https://www.corporate-eye.com/main/audio/prof-gary-davies-full-interview.mp3] Length: 1:01:25
Download: Professor Gary Davies interview (whole interview)
Download: Transcript (PDF)
Many thanks to Gary for taking the time to talk to Paul.
Who were we speaking to?
Gary Davies is Professor of Strategy and Director of the Reputation, Brand and Competitiveness research group at Manchester Business School (MBS). He is currently Director of Post Graduate Taught programs (all taught MSc programs) at MBS. He joined MBS from Templeton College, University of Oxford in 1992. Before entering an academic career in 1975, he had commercial experience with British Aluminium and the Mars (now Master Foods) Group. He works as a freelance consultant in strategic analysis and corporate reputation.
Gary teaches strategy, corporate reputation, marketing strategy and crisis management, and his current research interests focus on reputation management, branding, employer branding and spillover effects from corporate to product branding.