Truth – a very powerful word, a very powerful ideal, for people and brands.
Just yesterday we saw the powerful tide of voices speaking about equality at the Golden Globes, part of the fantastic vocal shift in driving equality of pay in the workplace and speaking out against abuse and harassment. In today’s world the power of speaking the truth, being authentic, taking a stance, all impact how we behave but also have a huge impact on how brands behave.
Watching an episode of The Crown on Netflix this weekend where The Queen was prompted in 1957 to reconsider how she spoke to people, open-up and be more accessible, it hit me that her brand went through a tectonic shift in order to better connect with its audience, a shift that meant her coming out of the shackles of traditional protocol to change her brand to speak with more honesty and realness.
Oprah Winfrey’s speech at the Golden Globes this weekend smacked this idea of truth even more clearly into the forefront of my vision. I love her, she is a magnificent force of truth herself, an inspiring role model and her brand voice has gravitas, has a clear point of view, and is packed with authenticity and a humble tone that draws you in, makes you believe, and fosters followership. So much so that the press his even speculating that she run for President in 2020 – behold the power of an authentic, strong voice!
It’s a curious thing the parallel of these to how brands take on life like people in today’s culture at large and need to act in a way that resonates and connects best with its audience.
A few examples of brands grabbing this idea by the horns spring to mind…
Innocent drinks. This brand burst on to the scene in only 1999. The simplicity and honesty in its proposition and importantly its tone of voice disrupted the UK market and for me was a powerful symbol of how a brand with integrity through transparency and honesty can make a mark on its audience.
The Honest Company. The clue is in the name on this one. Jessica Alba’s stance to demand safe and effective products that are ‘good’ is a mission to admire, and a proposition that clearly resonates. It again encompasses not only honesty and transparency but a confidence, a strong belief in how the brand conveys to others this essences. Right down to Jessica herself featuring her family and her trust in the brand.
Everlane. A brand with a remarkable concept demonstrating how living the truth has power. These guys take transparency to the next level sharing with you the exact process and costs associated with it of how items are produced before getting to you to give you a view of where it came from and integrity behind its price. A shining example of how consumers value the truth, and nothing but.
The truth is a powerful value to hold, but it can take effort for a brand to commit to it and truly live by it.
When I worked on the Dove brand at Unilever I experienced firsthand the rigor required and the effort required to respect the value of truth in building a brand and truly live it. The extra complexity and energy it brings with regards to casting real people with real stories, the extra caution paid to tone of voice in every piece of copy, and even the extra care paid to demonstrate integrity in any communication be it internal or external coming from the brand. For a large mass-market beauty brand it is amazing what that team does, but the rewards for that immense effort are clear to see.
In contrast when a brand puts something out there that hasn’t been through that level of rigor, and effectively is not being authentic then it gets it comeuppance. For example the Nokia Lumia 920 ad that was made up clips allegedly filmed on the camera from that phone but you could see the larger video camera in the footage of the ad reflected in a window or in the shadow it left in plain sight… yes that really happened, google it, doh!
We are living in a world that grows more and more transparent every day, surely only authentic voices who speak the truth and live by it will prevail?