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Can your brand survive the truth?

In a world of mixed messages, misleading advertising, unstable financial times, and weary consumers, trust in your brand becomes even more critical. One way to earn this trust is through the good old-fashioned truth. But how many brands are built on the truth and can they deliver on this?
Branding has historically been known for its promises, the emotional or rational connection that has been communicated to consumers over and over again. Companies need to make sure that brand truth is reflected by not only what you say, but how you do it. With so many different consumer touchpoints, is it possible to make sure that every single one is “keeping it real”? If we went to the heart of the brand, where it comes from and what it really stands for, would the advertising and communication be able to portray this? Let's remove all of the marketing and branding jargon, and get to the crux of your brand. Who are you? What can you deliver? Why does it matter? And then that is what you tell your consumers?

One way in which we can look at brand relationships are to treat your brand as if it were on the dating scene. On a blind date, first impressions do matter. So your date arrives in a full suit, smart shoes and driving the latest BMW. Now that might start to impress you, but when you look closer you start to notice that he/she is not necessarily comfortable in their clothes. Then the conversation starts. They talk about personal accomplishments, heroic life stories, and grand lifetime plans, now that is impressive. But, what if the person that is trying so hard to impress you is actually just the girl/guy next door that enjoys life's simple pleasures and is most comfortable in jeans and takkies? Sure, the latter doesn't sound as intriguing as the former but it is the truth. What becomes of the second, third and fifth dates? Can you continue the charade of not being who you truly are? It is inevitable that the “chink in the armour” will start to show. Some brands are having the same problem. Making yourself out to be something that you aren't, can and will backfire.

While asking yourself why I am here may be the hardest question of all, asking why your brand is here should be slightly easier. It all comes down to: what do you want the consumer to believe when they interact with your brand, and what you can or can't deliver on. Imagine if the Coca-Cola brand tried to advertise itself for its new top-of-the-range printers. Regardless of how much brand equity Coke has, it will never be able to stretch that far and deliver on the promise. Hence the reason they stick to their core essence of providing enjoyment - this they can deliver on and do it better than most...

The new buzz word at the moment is the financial crisis. However, this too shall pass, and is now not the time to investigate who your brand is and how you want to take it into the future? This way, when consumers begin spending again, you have already had your first and second date with them, and you will remain top of mind.

Do you stand for expertise and high quality, or is it for service delivery? Find what you are good at, what can differentiate you and what you can over-deliver on, and make sure that your consumers feel that at every interaction they have with you. Stick to what you can reliably and consistently stand for. Consumers will then know what to expect from your brand - then exceed their expectation and you have a winning recipe.

Branding is not a one-night stand, it is a long-term marriage that you are trying to build. So just like in a failing marriage you would go to a marriage counsellor, a dedicated branding agency can help you rekindle the spirit of your brand's relationship with your consumers, based on the truth.

2 Sep 2009 14:36

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About the author

Lara is a strategist for The Brand Union.



She has a Higher Integrated Diploma with a specialisation in Brand Management from the AAA School of Advertising as well as a Post-Graduate diploma in Management from the Witwatersrand Business School. Lara comes from a very strong marketing and branding background in both strategy and implementation. Her previous experience in both marketing and business strategy positions, as well as client service, is a perfect fit to have a holistic understanding of her clients, their needs and the challenges they face.



Lara is competitive show jumper and has provincial colours in two different sports. She enjoys spending time outdoors and staying fit and healthy.




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