Build better brands: Cut the crap and get to the truth

Build better brands: Cut the crap and get to the truth

Sean Masters, Masters Allen

Submitted by; Sean Masters (, Post published; 9th May 2019

If you think branding is just another exercise in marketing mumbo-jumbo, consider this question – How do you define where business strategy begins and brand strategy ends?

Brand has long been considered a subset of marketing, but as the worlds of brand and business continue to become synonymous with one another, things are changing.

In the wise words of Marty Neumeier, author of The Brand Gap, “Brand is becoming the ‘what’ of business success. Whilst marketing, sales, operations, product design, and culture are the “hows” of business success – the inputs to achieving brand dominance”

It’s true. How a brand defines itself impacts on its processes and business decisions. And equally, brand communication is impacted by strategic business objectives. For many SMEs, ‘loyalty’– whether it be through simple, convenient, repeatable transactions or a rapturous customer experience – is the catalyst to business growth and brand success.

So, why do only 31% of the public believe that brands have good intentions?

Having met and engaged with hundreds of different businesses over the years, we’ve identified one crucially consistent theme – a genuine motivation to deliver the best product or service, whilst achieving a healthy profit margin in the process. Maybe we’re lucky, but we’ve experienced very little fakery. The reality is, in a world of fake news and post-truth politics, the value of a strong authentic business and brand is as indisputable as it is intangible.

In today’s over-serviced and ever-disrupted markets, where competitive advantages hinge on the narrowest nuance, a clearly defined brand communicates the uniqueness of your business. It helps differentiate your products/services, processes and culture in ways that set you apart. And it can be the difference between a loyal customer relationship and a one-night-stand; short-lived revenues or long-term growth. Despite this, brand building is often undervalued, overlooked or misunderstood – a missed opportunity in our book.

So here’s the thing. A brand is much more than a name, a visual identity or a clever slogan. It’s grounded in your entire business. In short, it’s everything you say, everything you do, and everything you are.

Moreover, the most successful brands aren’t made from buzzwords and marketing gimmicks, they’re built on three pillars; the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

As Starbucks Chairman Howard Schultz once put it “authentic brands don’t emerge from marketing cubicles or advertising agencies – they emanate from everything the company does.” Your point-of-difference – that sweet spot that propels you from the crowd – is rooted in the truth of your everyday. It’s linked as much to your culture and your values as it is to your products/services, your people, your innovations and your market.

So, while modern businesses understandably promote the virtues of customer-centricity, the process of identifying a true differentiator that is central to your brand DNA begins with a comprehensive self-evaluation. In other words, lift the lid to challenge who, what, why and where.

By deconstructing facets of your business, you can reveal the secrets of what makes you unique – and translate it into a lived brand experience that everyone in your organisation can believe in and get behind. As Mark Twain wrote, “if you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything”. An authentic brand narrative that everyone buys into plays by the same rules – it can be clearly communicated without doubt or hesitation and replicated consistently across all channels. Everyone feels better when telling the truth.

It goes without saying that your point-of-difference must also speak to your customers’ needs. If it’s relatable, relevant and useful to them – and your promises mirror their real-world experiences – they’ll keep coming back for more. Strong, truthful brands can win the hearts and minds of your employees and your customers. And that can only be good for business.

The perfect illustration of this ‘focused unity’ is highlighted in the story of President John F. Kennedy, who when visiting NASA in 1962, noticed a janitor carrying a broom and said, “Hi, I’m John Kennedy. What are you doing?” His reply, “Well, Mr President, I’m helping put a man on the moon.”

Fundamentally, we’re all in the business of storytelling. And a great brand is a story that’s always being told. The question is, do you want to tell a tall tale or the truth? For us, the truth wins every time.

So nevermind the marketing b*llocks – the best businesses really are built on three pillars; the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. We swear by it.

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