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Are You Who You Say You Are?

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Who are you? A client claimed to offer a new approach that was much easier, far faster, a fraction of the cost of traditional methods, and simple enough for anyone to master. And, if you were a programmer, that may have been true. But once the Marketing and Sales teams were briefed on the actual implementation, they felt that everything they’d been promoting was... misleading. And that’s a brand problem.

Marketing Brand Identity
If the promise you make can’t be kept, there’s little hope. Just as great advertising makes bad products fail faster, a disconnect between a brand’s promise and what it actually delivers can be revealed in a tweet that can spread around the world in mere seconds... and reveal the smoke and mirrors in your marketing magic.

Perception and Reality

Saying you’re one thing and being another is bad enough when you’re dealing with prospects and buyers. When employees are affected, it’s even worse. If they realize that they’re skating on thin ethical ice, their morale is sure to suffer... unless they’re Sammy Glick. And if, for example, the outbound message touts the quality of customer service while the customer service staff itself is treated poorly, it can tarnish the brand as soon as resentment is reflected in reps’ attitudes toward customers.

A recent episode of Undercover Boss could have depressed Gelos, the Greek god of laughter, when employees complained – consistently – about being poorly paid, feeling undervalued, and having no hope for advancement. Expecting to hear much more positive things while dressed as one of the employees, the boss was made to feel much more like Hyde instead of Jekyll.

The client I mentioned at the start was consistent in its message but, like the picture of Dorian Gray, what was seen and what was hidden were at odds. The modern, innovative, mold-breaking image that the marketing put forth was diametrically opposed to the CEO’s rigid, traditional perceptions about the way things should be done. As a result, momentum was constantly lost when the CEO shut down any effort to live up to the brand’s personality and promise. It got so bad that even one of the founders resigned.

Better Than It Seems

There’s an inverse to this – the brand that appears so convinced of its invincibility that it almost dares you to do business with them. Yet the people inside are so well-rewarded, well-prepared, and well-supported by management that dealing with the company is far more pleasurable than the brand’s personality would suggest. In the age of instant messaging and social media, that reputation makes the brand aspirational – something you’re willing to pay extra for because everyone in the organization reinforces the positives and, thus, minimizes the negatives.

A brand can either have the charm of Clark Kent and the potential of Superman or the charm of Count Dracula and the peril of the vampire. Which are you? (And when will your customers find out?)

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About the author

Peter Altschuler's picture

BlueSteps Executive Guest Writer

Peter Altschuler has been making products and services irresistible for more than a generation in a career that extends from high technology to television production.

He’s currently the chief marketing and creative strategist at Wordsworth & Company and has served as a Group Creative Director at San Francisco ad agency Anderson & Lembke, run the in-house agency at Candle Corp (now part of IBM) and, earlier, worked in television, producing for ABC News, Sesame Workshop, The Food Network, and PBS.
   
In his spare time, he brings books to life — most recently narrating Getting Religion by former Newsweek religion editor Kenneth Woodward and Creativity, Inc. by Pixar founder Ed Catmull — and performs in everything from Shakespeare to commercials.

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