Did Chrysler's image suffer from the recent announcement that the latch on the rear door of its minivans had a tendency to pop open during rear-end crashes? Why did attorney F. Lee Bailey fare so poorly when he cross-examined a witness in the O.J. Simpson trial?
Why does the Hard Rock Cafe attract crowds when the food is similar in 20 other restau-rants in the same city?
Without question, it is all in the image. Even why one company is able to charge higher prices than a comparable firm may have more to do with image than anything else.
The way a business is perceived by its customers, competitors, prospects, the general public, the government and the press has a profound effect on the success of the enterprise.
Not everyone believes that image is important. It is common for those in the professional services field, i.e. lawyers and accountants, to proclaim that they are content to let the quality of their work speak for itself and, therefore, to rely on word-of-mouth to communicate their stories.
That may have been satisfactory decades ago, but much of the negative public attitude toward these professions is the result of failing to care for image.
In Mr. Bailey's case, whether he knew it or not, he had the image of a ``has-been,'' not the brilliant, daring, provocative lawyer of the Boston Strangler days 30 years ago.
Even as companies take great care in presenting themselves well to their bankers, it is even more important to manage a firm's image with its various constituencies.
Ironically, image-making is sometimes viewed as a ``smoke and mirrors'' task. Certainly, there are those who are willing (and sometimes even eager) to fabricate a new image. This is the exception, however.
Image-making for most businesses is simply a matter of telling the truth; of communicating their mission and the way they serve their customers.
Far from twisting, distorting or fabricating facts, the image-making function is simply opening the doors for others to see what is going on.
There is another side of the coin, however. There are business owners and managers who harbor a company image that is far removed from reality.
Far too often, they want only for their view of the company to be reaffirmed.
We were brazen enough to raise the question about a prospective client's logo that appeared to be irrelevant, a graphic disaster that failed to communicate anything important about the business.
The owner made it clear that there was ``a story behind every element in our logo.''
Needless to say, we did not get the account. But by being candid before going to work for the company, we learned that candor was not a quality cherished by the firm.
The best company image is one that portrays an enterprise in a way that makes good sense. Exaggeration is as inappropriate as failing to capture a company's strength and vitality.
When it comes to image, many firms-no matter their relative size-want to be viewed as bigger than they really are.
We suggest that the best way to succeed with the task of image-making is to present a company just as it is. More times than not, the results are spectacular.
Mr. Graham is president of Graham Communications, a marketing services and sales consulting firm in Quincy, Mass.