Here’s a story that really talks to the power of a brand. I was recently part of a conversation where a colleague was horrified to find out that her internet service provider (ISP) subcontracted their e-mail service to Hotmail. Another person chimed in, saying that although they use Hotmail, they would never want to use an ISP that used Hotmail or it’s competitor Gmail.

I was astounded, not because of any opinions I have about Hotmail, but because their response was based wholly on perception. If my colleague had been told that her ISP contracted Microsoft to run its e-mail service, she probably wouldn’t flinch – yet Hotmail is a brand of Microsoft. And she was horrified. Is it because Hotmail is a free service, because it has advertising on its web space? I don’t know. In my mind, there’s merit in an internet company using established e-mail service providers like that. One would think that Microsoft and Google know a thing or two about running e-mail services. Consider the volume of e-mail both those systems handle on a daily basis, with relatively few problems. If they can do that for their own service, no reason why they can’t do it on a subcontract basis.

This story really demonstrates to me just how we make so many decisions based on our perception of an organization based on their brand – not just the logo they use or the colours on their web site. A brand is a much more holistic experience. It involves the purchase or user experience, price point, who we associate with and how we interact with our community. In fact, our entire knowledge and perception of the organization or service.

What do you think? Join the conversation. Leave a comment.