Do you know the difference between your brand and your reputation?

Mike Sewell reflects on a client event that raised some pertinent lessons for CPL and its clients

It’s amazing what you can learn at a parking industry conference.

Most of it isn’t about penalty charge notices and traffic wardens (not that they’re called that any more by the way).

At last week’s event, called Tomorrow’s World, Today and run by our client the British Parking Association (BPA), I heard about the key role data will play in creating sustainable cities in a world where autonomous vehicles will be commonplace.

I learned about the possibilities offered by electric vehicles, including the enticing prospect of cars with ‘vehicle-to-grid’ capabilities that will allow motorists to earn money by helping top up the National Grid from their cars.

On the flip side, I also found out about some very real fears associated with electric vehicles and the potential fire risks associated with them. ‘If there’s one thing that comes close to keeping me awake at night, it’s that,’ said Martin Draper, who runs Heathrow Airport’s parking operation.

It was also interesting to hear about the changing role of cash in our economy. According to David Fagleman, of Cash Services, 37% of all payments in the UK in 2017 were made in cash, equating to £13.1bn. That number is likely to fall to around £6bn by 2027 but – even in these days of contactless cards and Apple Pay and Google Pay – coins and notes will still have a role to play.

In an industry where a company called AppyParking (strapline: ‘Make parking forgettable’) is among the fastest-growing businesses, Andrew Higginson, chair of both Morrisons and YourParkingSpace, emphasised the value of good old customer service. He stressed that technology should only ever be an enabler. In the world of retail, he argued, ‘there’s no such thing as an online business – it’s just another channel for people to purchase things’.

Finally, in a keynote presentation by former Saatchi & Saatchi London CEO Rita Clifton, I was given plenty of food for thought about ‘brand and reputation’. This topic is close to our hearts at CPL, because the content marketing strategies we create and deliver play their part in building both of them for our clients.

It’s also particularly pertinent to me because we’re rolling out the latest version of Our Story, the summary document we use to encapsulate what CPL is all about – and where we’re heading in the next three years.

CPL’s Our Story includes our business purpose – which is that ‘We help people belong’.

So I was pleased to hear Rita say that purpose-led organisations outperform others and encourage us all to read Simon Sinek’s classic book, Start With Why.

She also showed a touch of chutzpah by arguing that Amazon’s Jeff Bezos has got it wrong when he says ‘your brand is what other people say about you when you are not in the room’.

That’s not your brand, she argued, ‘it’s your reputation’. You don’t own your reputation, she said, but you do own your brand – and there’s lots you can do to make it more effective.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the reputation of ‘brand parking’ is not always great. So it’s been interesting to see the parking industry getting on the front foot to address this through the Positive Parking Agenda. Parking News, the magazine CPL creates for the BPA, provides a forum and a springboard to unite the industry behind the campaign.

I headed home from the conference with two main challenges to consider. What more can our clients do to improve their brand and reputation? And how can CPL do the same?

The answers are obviously linked. The better job we do on behalf of our clients, the stronger our own brand and reputation will be.

Mike Sewell
is managing director
at CPL

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