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Editor's Note: Our Biggest, Baddest Branding Package

Amy C. CosperOn the crumbling walls of the buildings of Pompeii, ancient graffiti is everywhere.

If you are fluent in the ancient language, you can read up on who people voted for or how vile and corrupt politicians were. You will also find recommendations on where to buy the best bread, the best wine and the cheapest meat.

In one instance, an irritated customer angrily scribbled on the outside of an inn these fighting words: "What a lot of tricks you use to deceive us, Innkeeper. You sell water, but unmixed wine." Translation? "Don't buy from this guy. He ripped me off, he watered down my wine, and he'll probably rip you off and water down your wine, too." Sort of an early version of Yelp. (Perhaps known back then as Yelpus.)

Ancient graffiti is a fascinating way to study pop culture. And, in many ways, this art form served as the toga-wearing version of social media. It's where the masses could express views on everything from love to politics to where to buy bread--and which merchants to avoid.

As the graffiti-festooned walls of Pompeii show, having a voice and an opinion predates Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest by several thousand years. Even without "like" buttons, retweets and even the recently minted phrase "I'm not a fan," consumers have always found a way to weigh in on their experiences--usually to no avail. But the power of their voice through social media platforms is unequaled in history. It offers an outlet for consumers to influence everything about your company. Think of it as the digital equivalent of ancient graffiti--it can make a brand or it can destroy a brand.

Because of the shift in how customers interact and influence the perception of your brand, it has never been more crucial to understand what your brand stands for. Great brands always have purpose. What is yours? How you answer that question is the very linchpin that connects you with your customer. And, like all good relationships, it starts with trust.

"Trust has always been crucial for brands because it is crucial for relationships. Trust is not a new concept in branding. However, the attention given to the topic today is a response to the way many customers have been treated--both good and bad," explains Mike Weisman, co-founder of The Values Institute at DGWB (and our partner for the branding feature).

When trust is violated (like when the innkeeper waters down your wine), customers become suspicious, and, Weisman says, "the old BS meters go way up. And believe me, you can't hide bad behavior behind a shiny ad campaign."

In celebration of creating a trusted brand, we bring you this: our Biggest, Baddest Branding Issue of All Time. Included in its pages are tips and ideas on how to be a great and trusted brand, as well as lessons and ideas from the 10 most trusted brands in America.

It doesn't matter if you are a 10-year-old company, a corporate entity with 5,000 employees or an innkeeper in ancient Pompeii; how you demonstrate your purpose and create trust is the mark of whether your brand will succeed or fail.

Amy C. Cosper
Amy C. Cosper,
Editor in chief
Follow me on Twitter, @EntMagazineAmy

Amy Cosper is vice president of Entrepreneur Media Inc., and editor-in-chief of Entrepreneur magazine.

Like this article? Get this issue right now on iPad, Nook or Kindle Fire.

This article was originally published in the April 2012 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: The Writing on the Wall.

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