Creating a brand that doesn’t lie or overpromise

Recently I have been asked to help create the branding and positioning for a new agency. I will not name them yet as I don’t want to jump the gun on their activities. But I do love the drilling down into what makes a business unique and then working out how this can be made to connect with its potential customers.

I’ve been interested by the thinking of the agency’s two founders. I find we are on the same page when it comes to how we think brands should behave, and by a firm rejection of the historical position of brands. You know the one. It tries to pin the bubble of aspiration to a product: buy car x and your life will be transformed into the idealised glamour depicted in the advert. Selling dreams in this way has worked for a long time, and you have to look no further than perfume or cosmetic advertising to see this is still alive and well in some sectors.

Increasingly this approach is threatened by the marketing ‘savvy’ (to use a word I only hear marketing people employ in real life) now alive and well in the general populace. In western societies this ‘Adland’ drivel doesn’t wash any more and some of the more effective brands realise we are not going to be obediently in thrall to their brands. In short we have grown up and don’t look up to brands any more. Of course we can ironically enjoy ads that depict dreamlands, or even be momentarily mesmerised by their beautiful production values, but do we really buy the dream their brand is selling any more?

The foundation for a more honest relationship with a brand is to be truthful. Of course you can be inspiring but you’re far more likely to have a longer-lasting and ultimately more profitable relationship with a brand if you haven’t sold them a castle of clouds in the first place. Not talking down to people, being inspiring without deceiving and, above all, reaching people in surprising ways is where my interest resides.