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Why brand honesty is the only policy

14 November 2013 Jim Harrison,

Richard Sunderland writes...

The world of branding has never been more exciting. And it’s because social media have given consumers the power to answer back. To take to Twitter and Facebook and have their say. To criticize, to praise, to complain and to engage. For the first time, consumers have truly become owners of brands. We think this new paradigm is significant for two main reasons, both of which are very close to our heart at Heavenly.

Firstly, brands need to be honest. If they don’t behave with authenticity, they will be rumbled. In this new age of honesty, false promises will not be tolerated. And we are witnessing more brands embracing transparency. With a clearer approach to pricing tariffs, for example in the energy category; or offering more truthful tales in the travel and hospitality sector; or wearing their ethics on their sleeves when it comes to sustainability and responsible business. Where reputation really matters, smart brands will not risk damaging theirs by being anything other than whiter than white with the customer.

Secondly - and this is what really makes us tick at Heavenly - how brands present their story in a compelling way requires an idea. We often say to clients that our ambition as an agency is to “make honesty sexy”. That is, to unearth a truth within a brand and present it in such a way that it captures people’s imaginations. Because if we can achieve this, we believe that the consumer will not only have a stronger, more credible bond with the brand but they are also more likely to share it with their friends, which can only help benefit the bottom line in terms of marketing budget.

In our view, truly great brands will rely less and less on conventional advertising as a marketing channel just because they won’t have to. As social media unzips this world of honesty and innovations in technology allow brands to get closer to consumers, advertising seems a bit passé. Wherever possible, we encourage brand-owners to think about content – in all its forms – as the primary way to bring a brand to life: editorial content in print, digital and on TV; events, exhibitions and experiences; publishing; games; built environments and retail; product design and user engagement. All these channels allow brands to tell their stories rather than sell their stories.

It’s time for brands to start ditching the spin and telling bare-faced truths. Because, like it or not, it will out.


 Header image courtesy of Flickr user 'hapticflapjack'

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