On Aristotle and Brand Value

Posted on April 22, 2018

Reading up on Aristotle this weekend, and the Golden Mean. In business, the balance is an essential factor in economic and ethical means. I know that leagues of leadership books have been written to define the process in detail and how to create advantage from it, I want to look at the how our social expectation defines our professional ones, and how they differ.

While advertising and lifestyle promote the extreme, the cutting edge, the daring and different, a closer look at the way we do business reveals the expectation of a carefully crafted balance. A give and take, an agreement – either well defined in a contract or ad hoc with a handshake – as an assurance of equal value to be provided in an exchange of service, time, or currency.

Often, the measure is well defined and set by the market rules, local and national competitors, and the customer’s experience. For example, a fast food hamburger goes between $0.99 and $3.50 while a burger at a sit-down restaurant averages between $8.00 and $12.50. What differs is the quality and features of the product and the presentation and environment of the transaction.

The brand of the company that offers goods further influences the perception of value, it comes as no surprise that the more successful brands have a structured value proposition, and their clientele is well aware what they are getting out of their transaction. The company’s ethics do influence the brand perception and with it the purchasing decision, but not the nature of the product itself. For example, the ethical or moral character of an NYC street vendor, for example, will not as much define the quality of the Knish or Hot Dog as the ingredients and their origin.

When it comes to professional, scientific, or technical services, the quality of service, availability in the target area(s), as well as the ethical standing of the service provider influence the perception of value a lot, and with that the brand. What intrigues me – and has so for the past three decades – is how the ethics of the people behind the brand influence their brand perception in the long run.

Aristotle’s theory of virtue ethics does not see a person’s actions as a reflection of their ethics but investigates the character of a person as the reason behind their ethics. In that regard, the motivation of the individual driving the business defines their ethics, and with that the perception of their brand. A brand strategy firm can harness the ethics by explaining the collective motivation of the service company’s leadership and employees to their consumers – their target audiences – to deepen their ties, to create better business relationships, and thus providing customer attraction and retention.

Balance matters in that regard – if the service of the company cannot deliver equally to the promise that their brand makes, the brand perception will shrink to the value provided. That’s why the “putting lipstick on a pig” strategy rarely works out. Communicating the real motivation, ethics, and value proposition of a brand and the individuals behind it is a rewarding experience, both in an ethical as well as in an economic matter.

Applying Aristotle’s rules, companies that lack ethics, morals, and capability will sooner or later cut corners and try to take a mile where their customers and vendors give an inch, not because they lack the means, but because of their motivation behind their ethics. While this provides them with a short-term advantage, their brand will suffer in the long run, and with that their radius and means.

When Made in Germany was founded in 2013, I defined its mission statement after my personal goal statement:

“Made in Germany exists to inspire excellence, grow strong performance and procure the highest quality of services and products – providing creative leadership and vision in a market that challenges and sustains.”

A nod to Heinrich Stelter, my philosophy teacher, and Messiers Thelen and Haas, in my day-to-day work I still answer their exam question with my individual and work ethics:

“Jens, what are you going to do with your life – and how does philosophy influence your decision-making process?”

Jens Kiel, Founder & CEO, April 2018


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