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MISSION:INTANGIBLE, the blog of the Intangible Asset Finance Society, offers critical comments on intangible asset, corporate reputation, and finance; supplemented by quantitative reputation metrics. Intangible assets include business processes, patents, trademarks; reputations for ethics and integrity; quality, safety, sustainability, security, and resilience; and comprise 70% of the average company's value. MISSION:INTANGIBLE is a registered trademark of the Intangible Asset Finance Society.

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Buffett Buys Businesses At Bargains and Deputies at Discount

C. HUYGENS - Monday, March 03, 2014
If you have not yet caught on that reputation is much bigger than brand marketing, and if the fear of personal reputational damage doesn't motivate reputation-linked changes in your company's governance, controls and risk management strategy, try this incentive: cost savings.

Warren Buffett's reputation creates cost benefits. Business Insider reports: "Berkshire Hathaway's annual shareholder letter explains that 'If you treat people well, they'll often sell their companies to you and work for you for less than they would the competition.'

These cost savings can be applied to investments in reputation protection, as when Berkshire purchased for BNSF rolling stock that exceeds safety requirements and reduces the risk of deadly railroad fireballs. The reputation burnishment Berkshire gained from taking a position opposite the one the auto manufacturer took when confronted with the risk of deadly Ford Pinto fireballs reinforces stakeholder expectations of responsible behavior. This creates further goodwill (lay definition, not accounting definition.) "This strategy of creating goodwill to get lower prices is an explicit part of Berkshire's strategy."

A superior reputation creates value in many tangible and intangible ways. While most of the value eventually becomes apparent on the profit and loss statement, there are good reasons to signal the benefits of better reputation management to those who can appreciate and value it.

Warren Buffett's annual investment letter may be the most followed corporate communication in the world. If you don't have Warren Buffett's cachet, consider Reputational Value Insurance. Like a warranty, this index-linked insurance tells stakeholders that the company has the requisite risk controls to protect its reputational value, a message that by themselves neither Public Relations nor Investor Relations can credibly deliver.

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