Whether you asked for it, had an active hand in making it, or even acknowledge it, you have a reputation. It can be built up, blown up, and is blended from both fact and fiction. It is a wild beast that is only tamed in the way an adult grizzly plucked from the forest can be tamed. Despite all volatility and fragility you must manage it as best you can, because when your reputation takes a hit the foundations of success begin to shudder.
A company's reputation is the same. After Target's data breach one year ago, their customer satisfaction and service reputation stayed in decline for many months after. S&P cut target's credit rating due to the breach's bigger than expected impact on traffic and sales. Their profits dropped 46% in Q4 of 2013 and their CEO was ousted five months after the breach went public.
There are plenty of tangible costs when a data breach occurs: lost productivity, forensic investigation, technical support, system availability, compliance and regulatory failure. Much of these costs, while significant, are manageable to an extent when the breach is kept under wraps. When word of a breach crosses over to the consumer side, the final tally of damage and cost is unpredictable. 42% of breached companies lost customers and business partners. 46% of a breached company's clients would no longer recommend the organization.
Companies like Sony, Home Depot, P.F. Chang's, Staples, Michaels, K-Mart have all been targets of data theft. Their damaged reputations will recover over time but the repair costs are significant. A Ponemon survey stated the average damage done to a brand ranges from $184 to more than $330 million and, at best, brands lost 12% of their value after a breach.