As Opposed to Being Shot Down by It
To people of a certain generation, their first introduction to “branding” had more to do with the etched insignia on the rump of a cow than the brand promise of, say, their favorite frosty beverage. Jump forward a few decades and today’s average consumer is, at least subconsciously, educated on what the brand promise is for each of the products that they depend on.
The use of the branding is so pervasive now, we hear individuals like celebrities and high-profile people talk about “their brand.” All too often it’s during times of crisis that we hear of someone’s brand needing to be “preserved.” The Tiger Woods cheating scandal really hurt “his” brand and cost him lots of cashola in the form of endorsement deals he held. Paula Deen all but lost her culinary empire with her recent debacle, which—among other factors—was a PR steamroller on a one-person destruction course. In situations like these, we see the oldest relationship ruiner in the book at work: guilt by association.
The dynamics of that factor can really topple relationships between fans (a.k.a., consumers) the branded (a.k.a. celebrity), and the bankroll (a.k.a. corporate sponsors), which circles right back to the fans and their wallets. But what’s at the heart of this precarious game of dominos has more to do with the integrity of the promise behind the brand than the branded. It just so happens that in these two instances, the integrity of each person was questioned based squarely on their actions (or inactions, to a degree on Paula Deen’s part) in their personal lives.
You Know what Happens when We Assume …
Along with his natural abilities, we assumed that Tiger stood for sportsmanship and fair play, which allowed him (and by proxy and a wish and a prayer, us) to excel. Paula Deen represented everything wholesome and comforting about good old-fashioned home cooking. Clearly not comforting is the perceived promise that by eating her cooking, we could end up with diabetes. (Let’s just say that she had lots of Paulagizin’ to do.) Real or imagined—these are the quantum leaps these divorces from the brand integrity caused. These shortcomings jumped the divide and landed on the shoulders of each’s brand promise, which buckled under the weight of the public outcry, corporate scrutiny, and subsequently loudest voice in the crowd, money walking … away.
Don’t Take this Personally, But …
Why does everyone feel so betrayed when a brand promise is broken? Well, just by the very nature of the word promise, there is an expectation of a consistent, reliable deliverable. When that trust has been broken—whether with product failure, action or inaction, or perceived slight—the consumer’s experience is marred and the branded product, person, or corporation is compromised. And, boy, do we take these breeches personally. But why?
Trial, Judge, and Jury = GUILTY!
A brand must, in a simple way, deliver the values, beliefs, benefits, and attributes of the company or product. It’s a brand’s job to deliver an experience to and for the consumer or client. It’s an unspoken agreement that when a person chooses a brand they are aligning their beliefs, values, and attributes with said brand. When that brand’s promise does not deliver, it can strike at a customer’s core and disappoint on a deep level. And that guilt by association factor—it rears its ugly head here. Who wants to be aligned with a cheater or a liar or corporate greed? And whether the likes of Tiger, Paula, or the Market Basket corporate bad guys (as witnessed in the recent Market Basket drama) really deserve to be called all kinds of nasty names, their perceived characteristics create a new, undesirable experience that people want to distance themselves from. A brand must be believable and aspirational. Otherwise, there is no buy-in, figuratively and literally. I want to believe that my choices in products and heroes will help me be a better me. Don’t you?
Keep it Simple
Amidst the whir and ping in a lifestyle filled with technical solutions, we’re ultimately searching for simplicity. A successful brand reduces the complexity of the buying process. In a microwave minute, we want (some might say need) to know what the brand is promising, its relevancy to our life, and that we can depend on it to perform and improve our life. Easy peasy.
Yeah, easy once you’ve gone through all the requisite work to uncover and communicate your brand. It is a process and in doing so you’ll discover your distinction in your marketplace. What makes you unique? Do you know?
Are you delivering all that your B2B brand promises? Can you deliver a better promise? A stronger brand message? Grant Marketing, a Boston-based marketing firm that specializes in B2B brand strategy consulting, can walk you through the brand development process to help uncover or clarify your brand messaging. To get started, click on the button below and download our Brand Report Card. See how well you are connecting with your customers.