Is your company being honest with your customers? I'm not talking about can you support your claims or are you accurate in your product descriptions. Those are important, too. But I'm talking about honesty on a deeper level. Whether you do a lot of marketing or not, does the brand persona you put forth really represent who you actually are as a brand.
Today's consumers have so much information at their fingertips. They can look you up on review sites like Yelp or industry-specific sites. They talk to their friends and acquaintances on social channels. They do online research when seeking new products and services. We've reached an age of transparency where you can't hide who you really are – so it's important that the face you put on your brand is one the customer will recognize as true.
The good news is this: customers don't expect perfection. They expect a humanness to brands these days. It's okay to make mistakes – as long as you own up to them and act to fix them. You don't have to have a pristine brand image like in the days when every piece of brand imagery was polished to a high sheen before putting it out there. People want to know the people behind the brands – or at least see a human side to the businesses they deal with. That's why being good corporate citizens and sharing what you're doing for your communities or causes has become important.
Brands are more willing to take a stance today. With this new era of brand honesty, many are more willing to take stances on controversial issues. Take gay marriage. Brands like Oreo and Levi's have unabashedly supported gay rights. Brands like Chick-fil-a (or at least their CEO) have taken an anti-gay marriage stance. Brands on both side of the issue have taken heat for their stance and have faced boycott threats. Yet, both are doing just fine. In fact, some are doing even better – thanks to ardent support from consumers that feel the same way.
But, do you know what your brand actually is? When we do brand exercises with companies, they are often better at articulating what the competition's brand is than their own. The attributes they ascribe to their own brand tend to be what they want them to be rather than what they are.
A big part of making sure you're putting the honest face of your brand out there is honestly knowing what your brand is. You can do a full on brand audit or corporate culture study to help you find out. But if you don't have the time or money for that, you can start by doing your own search. Do a Google search on your brand. Use social tools like twitter search or Social Mention. Ask your employees, customers and friends. What do you find? Are there consistent descriptions and trends? Are they different than the face you've been putting on your brand? If so, it's time to change.
Another exercise you can try is doing the six-word memoir for your business that I suggested in a previous post. So, how are you doing? Whether the brand is your company or you – does it honestly represent who you really are? Let me know. I'd be interested to hear what you find out.