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Choose Reality Over Perfection In Brand Building

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Choose Reality Over Perfection In Brand Building

Is perfect branding really the best way of building brands? Up until recently this might have been true. Asking Martha Stewart fans they would have agreed with me. Year after year the ever-perfect Martha was dishing up one perfect decoration advice after another. And yes they were really perfect – but repeating this session decade after decade made one mistake look so much more dramatic than if the brand Martha would have conducted mistakes, purposely or not, through the years just like us “ordinary” human beings.

And this brings me to the point. I’m a big believer in the fact that the ultimate brand is like a real person. Needless to say no brand hardly reaches a stage where people perceive it as being a real person, but the fact is, that the more human components we associate a brand with, typically the stronger the brand is.

The times where I’ve been most amazed about a brand have often been where it did something human. Where the service was extraordinarily good – and had a “real” human touch. The cases where the emails I received as a reply on my question sent either in anger or just in curiosity – reflected that a real person, of real human blood – actually were answering my email. But not only that – that the writing – reflected that this person had the authority to be a true individual, either in the tone-of-voice, the writing style…you name it. You see as customers we expect a brand to deliver on expectations. It’s a minimum standard to expect a brand to answer back, often within 24 hours. But if the reply is everything but standard, if it had that special “glimpse in the eye” it added extra brand equity to my brand – perhaps making it my favorite brand.

But making this possible requires a human behavior.

And a human behavior is often reflected by mistakes. I don’t need to tell you that neither you nor I are perfect. We do make mistakes – well I guess its mantra that we do this now and then, but it also creates our personality. Brands should do the same. No – don’t get me wrong. I’m not talking about messing up your account status, filling your emails and letters with spelling errors – but talking about making a brands behavior real. You see – a too perfect behavior creates a distance, as we know no one is perfect. When I look at these huge banks on the main street, dressed in steel and glass, with a huge corporate logo and people dressed in corporate black – it makes me feel like nothing. Corporations don’t need to go along that path; in fact I sometimes believe this is more a reflection of insecurity in senior management, creating these self-promoting statues – than actually a desire to create a stronger customer relationship.

And all this brings me back to Martha and her perfect image. Imagine Martha one day had pulled out her pudding from the oven and it collapsed. Imagine that the paintings she was framing were not hanging perfect above the sofa or imagine that she one day said she had a terrible hangover because she had a birthday party yesterday. That would have created empathy with her and her brand arming her for … well the day when a real mistake happened.

Remember one thing – the more perfect image we want to project our image towards the world – the more perfect the world expects us to be, however this is not necessarily to our benefit. So before you go ahead designing your website, your TV programs or commercials, your store decoration or whatever is generating traffic and revenue – think about the level of perfectionism you want to reflect – perhaps ‘being perfect” is not as perfect as we all think it is.

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2 Comments

Ken Rosen on October 08th, 2010 said

Good points, but I’d take a slightly different twist. Brand is a promise. Your human analogy is certainly right: we trust humans because we come to understand them, their motivations, their integrity…so little mistakes are not important. The people we believe in will fix their mistakes. Similarly, a company doesn’t have to be imperfect, it has to fulfill a promise to us. And part of that promise is what it does when something doesn’t go well. On these lines, I might turn your point slightly to: A brand might be best expressed when things go wrong. And from THAT perspective, having things go wrong once in a while is an opportunity to shine.

Ken Rosen

Simon Gornick on October 08th, 2010 said

The Martha analogy for perfection has a number of flaws it seems. Firstly, she went to jail for lying to Federal agents regarding alleged insider trading, which definitely put a dent in her brand. And secondly, perfection is in the eye of the beholder. Being perfect to everyone is to strive for the impossible. As to raising expectations to a dangerous level, my view is that – again – the material point is that however one pitches one’s brand, the proof is in the performance of that brand. Expectations in branding, it would seem to me, are based on past experience.

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