VIth Sense: How to be an Authentic Brand People Trust
I have great admiration for organizations with well-defined brands. The most successful organizations make decisions based on their desired brand position. The brand drives the entire organization. And frankly, that makes decisions a lot easier. They ask, “If we do this, is it good for our brand?” Their brand support is not just for the marketing campaigns. The leadership lives the brand. It spreads throughout the entire staff, touching their vendors and even their stakeholders. Disney comes to mind for me.
For certain, these types of organizations know exactly what their brand stands for. It is well-defined, written down, and communicated consistently. Can your organization say the same thing?
VI’s brand is defined. We know our brand attributes because we identified them — we didn’t make them up. We have a brand position statement and a brand vision. Our brand is born from our culture. That culture is all about working with organizations that are doing something positive for the world. We want to change the world for the better, so we pursue relationships that allow us to pursue our vision. They are easy decisions.
I get confused by companies that pursue anything and everything, creating brand confusion. Take Walgreens as an example. Walgreens claims to be a brand that promotes wellness first. Yet, Walgreens sells cigarettes, which is a product that will kill you if you use them as directed. As tobacco use becomes less of a social norm, this is going to become a significant disconnect for consumers. A brand can’t make a claim that they stand for something when their actions say otherwise.
If your actions do not support your brand, you aren’t building any equity in it. The novice marketer puts a lot of thought into what ‘image’ that they want to portray. They try to figure out what their target market wants them to be, or look like, or act like, and they create campaigns around that. These ‘image’ campaigns don’t produce good results because the reality of engaging with the brand doesn’t match what attracted someone to the brand. It’s a veil.
The good news is that there is a marketable brand position for each and every brand. It has to match up with your true deliverable and what the consumer (some of them anyway) desires. Identifying your brand position starts with your company culture. That’s why we say brands are built from the inside out. If your organization takes its time to produce the highest quality product or service in the marketplace, then you need to live that promise and find customers who value that. But, you can’t also claim to be quick and nimble, only to disappoint those customers who place higher value on that. Telling everyone what they want to hear — even when you can’t provide it — is harmful to your brand. Even if you get a short burst in sales, your brand will suffer in the long term.
Companies with well-defined brands don’t agonize over major decisions. It is clear to them that their choices will either support their brand position or it won’t. Like most things, doing the work up front will save a lot more work down the line. But trying to be all things to all people is what makes brands go up in smoke.