The Importance of Telling the Truth

September 28, 2006

Advertisers and politicians often opine that itís really a matter of perspective, but in the discipline of brand-building truth is singular and concrete. In a recent posting on Fast Company Now, Jim Gilmore writes about authenticity as the primary driver of brands. He basically says that a focus on building positive customer experiences is less important than the quest for authenticity.

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100 GuaranteeBut what is authenticity to a brand if not the product of a carefully developed and consistently executed brand strategy that is built on truth? Truth, not authenticity is behind every great brand. Truth is not a take-away, it is a mandate that permeates all that a brand stands for, says and does. Which is not to say that never the twain shall meetÖindeed a brand can be qualified as authentic ñ as defined by Mr. Gilmore ñ if it builds predictability and trust over time.

A terrific way to measure and build a brandís success over time is through customer experience management. This means creating a baseline score of familiarity and favorability and then working to meet customer expectations. Only with this qualitative and quantitative approach can a brand identify and firm up weaknesses, exceed what is expected and truly differentiate itself in the marketplace.

Letís look at Apple as a classic consumer example. Most people would not raise an eyebrow if we slap the AUTHENTIC label on this icon. However, authenticity means nothing without relevance. The key to Appleís recent re-emergence has been dogmatic attention to what customers value and delivery of these qualities ñ all in the context of Appleís promise of simplicity and ease of use. Relevance comes from understanding market needs and satisfying these needs in a genuine, unique and enduring way.

Lastly, if weíve learned anything from WorldCom, Enron and Adelphia, weíve learned that authenticity, by itself, is a house of cards in the world of executive missteps and misdemeanors. Brand building means philosophically óand in practiceóbeing truthful to oneself and to your key stakeholders, partners and customers, seeking relevance and making promises you can keep.

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