Your word is your brand. Or rather, if the words aren’t right and your consumers depend on them for vital information, your brand will quickly find itself in the crosshairs of regulators, activist groups and annoyed consumers. The recent case concerning the contents of herbal supplements is more than an argument over percentages; at its core lies a simple question that underpins consumer trust.
According to Simon Sinek, “Studies show that over 80 percent of Americans do not have their dream job. If more knew how to build organizations that inspire, we could live in a world in which that statistic was the reverse – a world in which over 80 percent of people loved their jobs”. Nice thought. Imagine the productivity gains if the vast majority of people in any given building were inspired and not just paid.
Both Jeff Swystun and Mark Ritson have taken aim at the brand industry with characteristic frankness. Whilst applauding the advances in turning brand into a recognised commercial activity, Swystun believes that an industry developed to fight commoditisation has itself succumbed to that market pressure. It has, he says, become “… highly stylized, shiny, and cool but largely standardized, prescribed and frequently devoid of substantiated benefit.” Everyone is being different in exactly the same way. Brand is today’s shiny metal object.
As marketers we take brand promises for granted. We just accept that every brand in its right mind has one and that it is committed to keeping it. As consumers, we have no such awareness. We don’t wander around with the strategies of our favourite brands on our devices checking that, wherever we see them, they are doing what they said they would do in the strategy.
If you need to shift your culture from where it is to a different viewpoint and value set, is there any incentive for change without a crisis? Will a culture make changes on its own or do people need a fright in order to seriously disrupt business as usual?
Brand and reputation are tightly linked but not synonyms. I raise this because I seem to be having more and more conversations where brand projects are being renamed as reputation projects to make them more “palatable” internally. That in itself says a lot about what senior management think brand is and why they believe it’s not what they need.
Stories add to the humanity of brands. They help consumers think through and act upon a narrative that is fundamentally rooted in human truths. Stories generate empathy. We see ourselves in the tale. Or we see a side of ourselves. Or we see the ‘me’ that we would like to be. Without that narrative, everything is dominated by features, data and discounts.