Brand honesty in the age of mistrust.

Jon Kerswell

September 19th, 2018  •  2 minute read

Why no one’s falling for your brand purpose anymore.

A few years ago there was a company with a problem.

They were struggling to differentiate in a commodified market.

Their offer was basically the same as all their competitors’. While there were some minor points of differentiation that they marketed themselves on, they basically fell into two well-trodden categories:

  • Heritage — ‘Hey, we’ve been doing this for a loooong time… and we’re still here, so we must be pretty good’
  • Newcomer — ‘Hey, we’re new and don’t have all those problems that the older companies have so we must be pretty good’.

Behind these companies, and those messages, were brand purposes. You could see them in every piece of marketing material the companies produced. They were all about trust.

The marketing was bang on message. But the reality of dealing with these companies couldn’t have been further from their purpose.

What their marketing told you was a lie.

And that led to a problem. Nobody believed what these companies told them.

On the one hand they were all about trust, whilst on the other they were desperately trying to hide a range of problems with their products and services.

And it was no secret that every company in the industry was facing the same problems. In fact, every time you spoke to a client, they’d tell you about all the issues they faced.

Now, the sales and marketing teams knew there was a long list of problems with every competitor’s offer. But there seemed to be some kind of ‘gentleman’s agreement’ that they wouldn’t market against each other in this particular area.

Whenever we suggested putting some differentiating, disrupting messages out there, we were told that wasn’t how things were done.

So, here’s what we did.

We talked about what was wrong with our own company.

Every month we shared the problems we (and therefore our customers) had with our products, service and systems.

We didn’t knock our competitors. We knocked ourselves.

After all, it was only admitting what everyone already knew. And what everyone was talking about anyway.

Once these problems were out there, a funny thing happened inside our business. The problems became real. Suddenly there was a greater urgency to make that list of problems shorter each month. And, if a new problem came up, we shared which client had told us about it, thanked them and explained how we were going to deal with it.

That meant we owned what was wrong with our offer.

There was no room for speculation, no outdated rumours, no guessing what else could be wrong that customers didn’t know about.

That built trust.

Because it was honest.

And because it lived the purpose.

Photo of Jon Kerswell

Written by

Jon Kerswell

Copywriting Director