Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Authentic Brands

In today's increasingly transparent world, brands must be authentic. People seek authenticity everywhere - in people and institutions and brands. Brands must be very careful to keep the promises that they make. And brands that claim a certain set of values must live up to those values. With global news coverage and the instantaneous nature of social media, no brand can get away with a lack of integrity for long. 

In 2000 BP rebranded itself as “bp: beyond petroleum” with a new bright yellow and green sunburst icon. BP supported this with a $200 million public relations advertising campaign designed by Ogilvy & Mather.  It worked well until the Gulf of Mexico oil spill in 2010. Then other actions came to light, like the environmentally controversial oil sands project in Alberta, Canada. If you are going to claim to be an environmentally friendly energy company that is moving beyond petroleum, you must be just that, an environmentally friendly energy company that is moving beyond petroleum. In 2011, BP divested itself of its solar power assets. In 2013, BP announced its intention to divest itself of its wind power assets. While it still uses its newer icon, it can no longer tout "beyond petroleum."

The lesson in this example is that brands must be authentic. They cannot successfully claim something that they are not. 

Examples of brands that are living their values (so far) are Patagonia (creating outdoor clothing, accessories, packs and gear, while striving to minimize harm to the environment) and Newman's Own (quality food products, all of whose profits go to charity). 

Before your brand promises something or claims a certain set of values, make sure is based on authenticity. It will help the brand's communications and activities flow with much less effort.

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