Authentic clarity;Brands need to be honest withthemselves rom the bottom up
Truth is the only defensible competitive advantage. I’m not sure why this iscontroversial, but it’s true.
The average Marketing Manager’s tour o duty is said to be about two years. Cynicsaccuse FMCG marketers o using the ‘TripleR’ approach to career building: repackage,relaunch, resign! The broader problem is this: marketersoten have little or no inuence on productdevelopment, yet bear the responsibility orsales. The biggest tool they have to play with isbranding. Thus all too oten we see expensiverebrands…and wonder “why?”. Too oten these eorts concentrate on visualuniormity rather than substantive dierentiation.Most product categories have a well-established communication language; rarely dothese get re-written. Too oten branding campaigns are purelyaspirational rather than authenticallyrepresentative o the business/product/service. This is known as “Top-down” branding…otenbuilt on wishul thinking it’s perhaps the mostexpensive and wasteul orm o brand illiteracyout there. This is oten seen in the branding work bybanks, insurance companies, big resourcecompanies, investment houses and airlineswhich struggle to fnd clear, tangibledierentiation. It’s also deeply attractive to themarketing manager wanting the biggest splashor his/her resume or the least amount o inconvenience to his/her employer!Every brand ultimately relies on eectiveexecution; corporate ID, campaign ideas, sellingpropositions, layout design are all important,but ultimately your brand is based on howyour customers — and, importantly, youremployees — experience your products andservices. Experience trumps style, every time. Itis short-sighted to develop your “brand du jour”based on how you want customers to see yourather than showing them the truth. Customerssee the branding, compare it with their ownexperience and chalk it down to just anotheradvertising lie. Their guard goes up and theirtrust goes down.Classic “Top-down” brand advertising is easy toidentiy. It costs a lot and usually eatures happy,generic people doing happy generic things whilemusic plays and voices either sing or speak. Fewspecifcs are provided. It is ull o promises andhopeulness… It tries to convince you that, hey,they’re people, too, and you really ought to likethem. Sometimes its job is to do little more thansay “we’ve got a new logo and tagline”. The “top-down” view is that i you just get the“branding” right everything else will all intoplace. Service organisations, with their intangibleproducts, oten resort to this approach, andin most categories, this way o thinking simplyresults in a very costly public dialogue betweenan advertiser and himsel. …because despite thebrand work, nothing about the company or theproduct actually changes. A common trigger or this increasingly discreditedbut still common orm o branding is when theproduct or service is becoming commodotized.Branding gets sold as a solution where genuineinnovation has ailed - which o course it neveris. This kind o branding is based on wishulthinking at best, on lies at worst. I you can’t fndan authentic dierentiator or your product, youshould probably go back and work harder on theproduct! The strongest branding is built “bottom-up”.Instead o getting customers to try our oering byconvincing them to love our brand, we get themto love our brand by convincing them to try ouroering - which is good enough to delight them. A key platorm or eective bottom-up brandingis what I call Authentic Clarity. Authentic Clarity is what is sounds like – simplytelling the truth: To your customers, to youremployees, and to yoursel (the company). Whenyou do that everything else alls into place. Thenyour brand makes sense and the stories you tellsupport your brand resonate deeply — becauseyour brand is you.
by Swordfsh Advertising& Marketing