The feedback being provided during these Feedback Days is priceless! I read all the responses above and get goosebumps thinking how serious and professional everyone is over here. You can't get this type of discussion anywhere else on the web, not that I'm aware of anyway.
I don't get goosebumps from anything anymore, alas. But for me it's the thoughtful, considered questions and responses that appeal. I read the posts here to relax, actually. I often work in the political arena (thus my deep cover) and I need to know there are people in the world who are willing to listen to new ideas and disagree respectfully. I get an emotional recharge here. And help with web, too.
I'm asked to talk on marketing sometimes. I have developed a set-piece called "What is a good brand?"
A good brand signals trust. The product with a good brand is appealing because you trust it that will what you want or need. Thus, if trust is violated, the brand is damaged. (Example right now is the BP brand in the US. Same beer and gas they've always had, but...)
But what is trust? This is complex and I can show you articles and research that break "trust" down into 33 points, with subset in each.
I've got it down to three basis points. They are competence, caring and integrity. Not all three are important in trust to all brands.
1. Competence: You care if your heart surgeon is a caring gal? Maybe not so much. Competence is what matters here. And we communicate competence is many little ways. Polish your shoes. Speak clearly. Hang paperwork on the wall. It's also helpful to know what you are talking about. Webmasterworld posters are competent.
2. Caring: A brand that stands for caring about the same things as you is easier to trust. I feel or think the brand shares my values. Thus, many brands are going "green" or are help others fighting cancer. Shared values build trust. Does your spouse or mother care about your website? No? Are they not worried about Google? No? When they learned you were doing PHP, did the family have an intervention? You can get some caring and understanding here at WW.
3. Integrity: A highway bridge is said to have structural integrity if it doesn't fall down when cars drive over it. The bridge does what it was built to do. Product failure damages the brand because it damages integrity; it damages trust. If you ask a question on WW, will you always get a good answer? Uh oh...
Generally in this little speech I give I end on integrity because it looks like a simple concept, but in the real world it is very difficult one. As any parent will tell you, life is hard and sometimes we can't do what we said we were going to do.
WW mission (like it or not) is to answer questions webmasters or would-be webmasters have about webmastering. Mission impossible. And, in this thread we heard from one poster who complained, rightfully, about not having his question answered. For this person, WW is not trustworthy, not a good brand. Harsh? I do not think so. Welcome to the real world of branding. As you have seen in all of the comments in Feedback Days, it is tough.
But, as many have said here, it is impressive how well WW does at accomplishing its impossible mission. WW's integrity is good, but not perfect. But, then integrity is hard, especially over time. That is why good brands are often older brands that handled the slings and arrows of life well.
The competence, caring and integrity seen in WW reflects its management. That's the way it is everywhere, for every brand. That is not a complement for Brett, it just a statement of a business fact.
So, as WW starts to make changes or expand its brand, it want to work to keep from damaging the brand. And even in enhance the brand. First and foremost, make sure you don't slack off on what got you here. (Apple's successful out-of-context move from computers into music was amazing and rare.)
Be competent, show caring, and if you say you're going to offer x, y and z, then do it. And throw in a w, too, for good measure. The WW brand is strong. If managed carefully as it has been, the WW brand will grow stronger over time. You can see how this little talk on trust might work with people thinking of running for local political office.