Wednesday, 14 October 2015

The Truth About Your Brand's Truth

We all have experiences like this, but I distinctly remember being annoyed by the tagline a bank of mine once used, "Leading The Way.”  The suggestion, or at least my perception of the claim, was the bank wanted me to believe it was somehow leading me. I resented the claim and what I believed was the bank's arrogance and overblown sense of its role in my life.  I have an equal aversion to Christian Mingle’s “Find God's Match for You” tag line – but lets save that for another post.

We must remind ourselves that in the old (pre-social) marketing world there were a lot of bullshit promises that brands made. I was definitely a part of this at some point, so am equally guilty. But ultimately we did this in the old days because consumers did not have any choice. We paid to push messages in people’s faces.

Sure, the best marketers avoided ego-stroking brand claims in favour of target-centric, emotionally compelling messages, but the vast majority of ad messages in the old world trended heavily toward what could only be considered ‘arrogant’ claims. It was much easier back then because it took very little effort to say whatever we wanted to say.

What is clear however is that it takes a lot more work to understand what your target constituent truly is interested in, and what authentic role in a consumer conversation your brand can truly play today.  It's also kind of amazing to see how slowly we're all shifting our approach to the radically shifting consumer behaviour.  This despite the numerous examples and the new media reality we navigate today.

Consumers today must invite your message in. Yet most advertisers still continue to hammer on the proverbial front door to pitch their wares. Undoubtedly, a brand marketer has a much tougher job in today's invitation-only world – as a premium is now placed on true creativity, honesty, and authenticity.  

But the bottom line is that there is a real need to be true and authentic today. Yet many brands still think that they are either able to control their brand message or (at the very least) manage it through social media channels like Facebook, Twitter and beyond.

Soda companies, for example, will spend millions trying to convince you that they care about youth obesity by sharing healthy factoids about humanity, while fried food companies will try to calm your nerves with recipe suggestions. It's not manipulation so much as it is their newfound ability to be a publisher and put out into their world thinly veiled content as an engine of positive brand perception.

In some instances, it works, connects and populates. In most instances though, it’s a complete waste of time because it was never authentic in the first place. Brands have to accept that they not only don't control their brands (not a new concept), but that even attempting to find the truth (for those who would be inclined to search, dig and better understand the discourse) may as well be all but lost in a world where the manipulation of content is as simple as touching a screen. 

Can brands protect themselves? They can. It will however be costly, time consuming and - ultimately - not worth the hassle and headache. As such, we are entering (kicking and screaming) the age of truth in branding.  A place where a brand is not a unique set of shared emotions through general consensus, but rather an ambiguous mix of content and emotions that are not as clear or easy to define as it once was.

The point is that your brand today should only seek to extend truth, authenticity, and credibility. Emotive brand strategies are built out of what is already true about your brand.  We are not talking about a list of features and benefits either. Your brand truth actually is what focuses consumers on the human, social, and environmental outcomes of those features and benefits, as well as the way in which your brand does its business.

Identifying your brand’s truth is truly an exploration of what lies behind what is already evident and understood about your brand. It is your way of identifying the meaning that lies now hidden in what your business does and how it does it. This analysis flows from the truth, yet illuminates that truth in a way that is more personally relevant and emotionally important to people.

Over time, these meaningful truths become more and more evident in what you do, and they will naturally become more appreciated and admired by your constituents.  As Churchill espoused, "The truth is incontrovertible. Malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end, there it is." 

Bottom line - the more genuine and authentic your brand truth – the closer to the hearts and minds of your customers you’ll be.  Your brands truth is your promise and it needs to ring true, be based on more than facts, and be deliberately aspirational in nature.  So, make certain your brand promise is authentic to what you really and truly do, and ensure credibility through an unwavering devotion to this truth. Godspeed.

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Goodbuzz is a digital agency based in Toronto, Canada. We help brands create and capture value from emerging trends in technology, society and the workplace. We prototype the future - and believe the best way to predict it - is to create it.  Follow us on Facebook or Twitter or if you have any questions contact Goodbuzz directly.