Honest Brands: Let Your Customers Define You
Today, Huffington Post came out with Part III of their “Honest Slogans” series. Clif Dickens created a website with the same title dedicated to reimagining corporate logos if they were honest about their goods and services through a consumer lens. Obviously, these logos were redesigned to make people laugh, but they’re so funny because they are so true! After reading all of them and having an experience with many of the brands listed, I thought about brands being honest and letting customer experience define them. How many creative briefs have you written or seen in the past 28 days that say “fun” “light hearted” and “hip” and it’s about a cracker or a cookie? Too many right and the first month of the year isn’t even over yet. I get it, I’ve done it, and I know why we have to do it, but consumers are going to start calling us out more on it.
In 2012, Stephen Colbert poked fun at a memo given to him by Wheat Thins that showed the brand took their famous cracker a little too serious for a snack. It was a great 7 minute segment, but for PR and marketing folks, the language in the memo was a little too familiar. The memo defined the cracker as “a snack for anyone actively seeking experiences.” The VP at an agency I worked at showed me the clip and after it was done said, “We have got to stop doing this in our briefs.” It was a much needed challenge for us to create better work and not get sucked in to the “we have to say we’re hip and fun to get Millennials” phase. As consumers get more tech savvy and are smarter shoppers, we have to start catering to them more. This includes letting them define our brands whether we like it or not.
Taco Bell has done consumers defining your brand brilliantly. Ask someone under the age of 30 when they last went to Taco Bell and they will likely say after a party or only on the weekends. The fast food giant has its best sales during the evening because people want a greasy, cheap taco when they’re drunk. Taco Bell couldn’t say this of course, so their marketing team came up with “Fourth Meal: Late Nite Food.” Without saying it, they said everything there audience was thinking and more importantly doing. Another brand that has done this more blatantly is Internet Explorer. They ran several viral ads titled “The Browser You Love to Hate.” IE knew hatred was a big part of their image and instead of fighting it; they embraced it, acknowledged their mistakes, and made a nice little comeback. Those viral ads ran before their wildly successful “Children of the 90s” spot and it worked.
Now, I’m not saying call yourselves the worst, but don’t call yourself the best if you’ve been number 5 for over a decade. Be honest! Now, don’t go to the extreme of the honest logos, but also don’t completely ignore how and when people use your brand. You heard it when you were a child and it still holds true today as a marketer, “honesty is the best policy.” Consumer feedback is everywhere. Look on Twitter and Facebook and see what your customers are saying about your brand and use it. You will be surprised that there is a lot of creative inspiration being given to you freely by your audience. In 2014, be an honest brand and let your customers define you. They are the core of your business and the customer is always right.