“Honesty is hardly ever heard, and mostly what I need from you.”
That schmaltzy line from 1979 could sum up what many brands need to remember in 2010. Today’s great brands exude authenticity, tapping into the growing civic sense evident in our society. Brands are becoming more and more honest.
The Barenaked Ladies are a perfect musical example. Their new song, “You Run Away”, is the band’s first release without co-lead singer Steven Page. The band’s typical jovial approach is tamed in this poignant song that reflects the band’s parting of ways with Page. Ed Robertson, the other singer and co-founder, has been candid in talking about the song and the need for the band to be honest and real, to confront the past, and to move on in a way that feels right to them and to their fans. It might not be typical Barenaked Ladies, but it is an amazing song that completely feels right in step with where their “brand” is today. Their fans will appreciate this song.
Roy Williams has created a powerful presentation on this evolution called “The 40 Year Pendulum“. He’s not alone in his observations. In their book “Generations: The History of America’s Future”, Strauss and Howe describe the same pendulum swing from the individual society to the civic society. It is very real, and wise brands are aware of it.
Domino’s Pizza took the honest approach in their latest major advertising campaign. They acknowledge the reality that a great many people think their pizza sucks, and they clearly stated what they are doing to make it better. They’ve even created a short documentary about how they plan to turn the company around. It actually makes for a pretty powerful 4 minutes.
When you put away the hype machine and speak to people in honest and real terms, great things can happen. Your brand can evolve from being just a product to having a human identity. It is much easier for a potential customer to form a lasting relationship with a human-like brand than with a massive faceless company.
That advice is especially powerful if your brand is experiencing controversy.
GM took that approach with their “Reinvention” campaign from last year.
Take a lesson from the Barenaked Ladies, GM, and Dominos. Acknowledge what people are saying about you, address it head on, and be honest with your customers.
That’s how legendary brands are built.
Now, enjoy the Barenaked Ladies addressing the band’s status head-on, and not running away.