The veil of perfection. Oh, how you protect us. Keeping us safe from others negative judgements. So often, we like to present ourselves as distinctly inhuman. We don’t make mistakes. Our work is always perfect. It has to be. Owning up to limitations and mistakes is bad for our brand. We act like machines. Yet humans cannot connect with machines. They do not trust machines. Is marketing our perfections really such a good idea?
The denial of problems within a company has killed more brands than it has saved. Marketing your brand centers on promoting what you excel at. The first impression is sacrosanct and must be rigidly controlled within marketing departments. But can we really control what everyone thinks of us?
What if we lift this veil and use our brand’s weaknesses and limitations to our advantage. Rather than feel naked and noxiously self-conscious, let’s trumpet these shortcomings and differentiate our brand from the in the closet “perfect companies”. Let’s not be generic. As a marketing agency we always preach to our clients to be different. Generally speaking, this is particularly apt for small businesses often left despairing at their inability to compete with large corporations.
Marketing your brand
Nevertheless, I’m not suggesting companies approach customers and confess with a reckless abandon that they’ve absolutely no idea what they’re doing. Revealing they feel so hopelessly in over their head that they are drowning in their own pool of inadequacy. A brave policy sure but one that would cripple brand identity. A brand needs a stable base, not an insecure one.
Customers want the best and will normally only purchase brands they are familiar with. They feel like they know the company and the company gets them. Brand selection is often a reflection of our personality. Companies that don’t claim to be perfect often create a paradoxical perception. They gain attention and admiration. People believe their brand must be strong as they do not fear open communication. Like carp, they swim against the current. Zigging when everyone zags.
Size can be your biggest weakness or your biggest strength depending on how you present it. Being a small company could mean you are able to build a closer connection to your customers. It could mean you value the relationship more. If your company is focused on one niche, you could begin by marketing your brand as an expert in that area. “We know nothing but computers. We eat sleep and breathe it”. Equally one spread wide might venerate themselves as one dedicated to meeting their customers every need.
Building unique brands
One of the defining traits of our humanity is compassion and empathy. Without these traits, we find it hard to make connections with others. Many detest consumerism and dislike “corporations” as mentally they represent the opposite of humanity. They represent big brother seeking to control, trick, and take everything from the little man. As a result, brands have difficulty trying to dispel these notions. Mass marketing doesn’t help.
Large companies strive to minimize their product offering to create a simplified product range facilitating smooth branding communication. They create products to appeal to everyone – the mass market. Consequently. they appear like they stand for nothing. It makes them lack personality, a unique identity. In effect a solid differentiating branding strategy. Their products don’t shock or surprise. No exhilaration. No thrills. Just as expected.
Apple stood out by being different. They positioned themselves as the rebel of the computer industry and we loved them for it. They didn’t stand for defensive posturing but innovation. This spoke to our humanity. Could you take a similar stance when marketing your brand?
Deep down we love irreverence. We yearn to branch out and truly be ourselves rebelling against the system. Apple did not let their limitations get the best of them. Instead, they took a different marketing approach not just whispering their “weirdness” but screaming it. Check out their 1984 ad and think different for added evidence.
Being more human
Large corporations are made up of people just like us. Working the 9 to 5 in the valiant quest to earn a decent wage and feed their families. Unfortunately, in these roles, many forget their unique humanness. Instead, they seek to make their brands blend in. They toe the line as it’s the safest option. It allows them to slowly climb the ladder never upsetting the apple tart. Yet, while their careers don’t stagnate, their brands do.
In the corporate life, in direct comparison to the entrepreneurial life, I believe it’s embedded in the psyche not to make mistakes. Presenting your marketing manager with that bold idea could damage your reputation. There goes that promotion. In Silicon Valley, start-ups take the opposite approach. Mistakes are not just encouraged but cherished. They force companies to learn and grow. Corporations already have the market and some just seek to hold this position. Mistakes are dangerous – threats. They must be discouraged with all their might.
This leads to the brand appearing inauthentic. They lie to mask mistakes which just infuriates the customer. I’m reading brand psychology by Jonathan Gabay at the moment. The author speaks about how corporations that own up to their mistakes are often forgiven and the whole issue is forgotten. Brands that lie and try to sweep it under the carpet just add fuel to the story.
The more people hear about something the more they believe it to be true. Remember the Bill Clinton and the Monica Lewinski scandal? People admire courage. Admit to your mistakes. Don’t hide it but own it. “We’re not perfect but we’re trying to be”.
I guess it all boils down to being transparent. The internet age means information and stories spread at the touch of a button. People will know what your business is capable of. Don’t blow yourself up too much, people won’t believe you. Instead be the heroic brand that does not conform to expected behavior. They rebel against it. They take pride in their limitations and are not stifled by them.
Imperfections are perfectly Ok. They present opportunities to improve our offering and show customers you won’t just solve their problems but you’ll endeavor to find them before they become problems. Trust and customer loyalty will then be earned.[spacer height=”20px”]