Your Flawed Brand Character Matters
- June 4, 2018
- Posted by: Robert Rose
- Category: Business Transformation, Content Marketing
Face It: Your Brand Is Flawed
You see it every day. Brands behaving badly in both major and minor ways. Facebook faces down both Congress and its customers over privacy concerns. Pepsi creates an ad featuring model Kendall Jenner leaving a photo shoot and joining a protest. Adidas sends an email just after last year’s Boston Marathon with the unfortunate (and insensitive) headline “You survived the Boston Marathon.” You’ve received the fifth email of the day addressed to <NAME>.
As communicators, we can hope to avoid these kinds of situations. But here’s the thing. Companies, brands, are made up of people. People make mistakes, and bad things happen. Every one of our brands will falter at some point.
However, in all these situations, I’m reminded of something that we can all take away as a learning for our role as brand storytellers.
The famous author Stephen R. Covey once wrote, “We … judge ourselves by our motives and others by their behavior.” It’s true. As humans, we continually make this fundamental attribution error in the way we perceive our actions vs. others.
We’re usually pretty clear on the intentions behind our own actions. We know that it was a total accident that we cut that car off in traffic. We know how hard we’ve been working to fix customer service issues.
When things go wrong for us, we’re most likely to blame the situation and remind ourselves of our intentions. But our perception of other people’s – and other brands’ – behavior is different. We don’t know their intentions. Even if they tell us, we may flat out ignore them. We’re most likely to interpret their actions as a flaw in their character.
As stewards of our brand story, this tendency toward attribution error in others provides a strong case for a storytelling strategy that has little to do with our product or service. We have, historically, developed our brand architectures to be perfect, unassailable, a passionate voice striking an ideal chord in an imperfect world. Our brand is the solution to all that ails you. We develop reasons to believe, a focus, and value.
But one important attribute to understand is the nature of our flawed character. Every hero has flaws. Luke Skywalker has his dark side, as does Rey. Clarice Starling from Silence of the Lambs has shame about her childhood. George Bailey, the perfect father, brother, and friend in It’s a Wonderful Life has self-worth issues. Indiana Jones has his hubris and a blind drive that destroys those that dare to be around him.
The hero’s flaw is the foundation that creates conflict in our story and is, of course, what compels audiences to watch. Isn’t it ironic, then, that we want our own brand story to be so uneventful, so free of conflict, when we truly understand it never will be.
As content marketers, we are the perfect candidates to be the holders of our flawed brand character. We must have the strength, the courage, and the developed muscle to communicate our intentions to live up to the set of ideals our brand represents. And we must know that we never fully will.
It’s your story. Tell it well.