Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Greatest Branding Secret in the History of Modern Marketing

Nope, it’s got nothing to do with Google.

It’s much, MUCH simpler than that.

The Greatest Branding Secret in the History of Modern Marketing boils down to one word:

Honesty.

Yep. That’s it. Honesty.

Call the Marketing Department for an emergency meeting. This is groundbreaking stuff.

“How are you branding your honesty?”

That’s the question you need to answer. Whether you’re a Fortune 1000 on Wall Street, a thirty-person pizza joint in Decatur or a one-man show working out of your living room alongside your snoring pit bull, you MUST brand your honesty.

For three reasons...

1. People are tired of being lied to.
2. People are sick of wading through the ever-rising tide of corporate and political bullshite.
3. People are forever jaded from the countless times they’ve been burned, duped, fooled, conned, scammed and screwed over.

Like my friend Jeffrey Gitomer says, “If you lie to me, you LOSE me.”

LESSON LEARNED: Truth is currency.

Being honest is actually easier. As Brad Blanton suggests in one of my favorite books, Radical Honesty, “Lying the single cause of all stress.”

I couldn’t agree more. In fact, every time I notice stress in my own life, I just ask myself, “What lie am I telling that’s causing this stress?”

Because your body will never lie to you.

So, honesty is attractive for two reasons:

First, honestly is attractive because it always has been. It’s a classical value. Few virtues have been around longer that honesty. In fact, there IS no Latin derivative for the word honor. Honor is honor. Honesty is about as Old School as you can get.

Secondly, honesty is attractive because it is rare. And unexpected. And underrated. Which, by way of The Law of Scarcity, almost makes it remarkable. Wow. Isn’t that wild? Something as simple and enduring as honesty has become so rare that it’s become remarkable.

Humph.

SO, HERE’S THE SECRET: Honesty is much more than simply “not telling a lie.”

Honesty is about telling THE truth.
Honesty is about honoring YOUR truth.
Honesty is about respecting OTHER PEOPLE’S truth.

Let’s explore a list of nine daily practices you can start executing TODAY to begin branding your honesty:

1. Be abnormally honest. In 1994, Progressive became the first auto insurance company to provide its rates alongside the rates of other companies. That way, consumers could easily compare and decide, even if they didn’t use Progressive.

Think that honesty has paid off?

You better believe it. Fifteen years later, Progressive is still #1. They realize that even when you say no, you’re still marketing. Even when you say no, you can still position yourself as a resource. And even when you say no, you can still strengthen your credibility. How much money are you losing by not being abnormally honest with your customers? Do you know what you AREN’T? Who could you turn away today that would come back in a year?

2. Be microscopically truthful. That’s where honesty shines the brightest. In those little moments where lying would probably be easier and quicker. So, the secret is simple: Character overrides impulses.

Sometimes you have to trade honesty for being right.

Sometimes you have to be willing to look like a complete and inconsistent idiot to practice what Gandhi called “living as close to truth as possible.”

Don’t worry, people will notice. Probably not all of them. And probably not right away. But they’ll notice. And they’ll remember. Will this lie require another lie? If so, will it be worth it? Or, would you be willing to live with the consequences of being honest?

3. Encourage truthful self-expression. In the aforementioned Radical Honesty, Blanton also says, “Freedom comes from refusing to hide.” Once again, I couldn’t agree more.

This reminds me of Avery, my twelve year-old cousin. Coolest kid ever. At his recent Bar Mitzvah, he wore a black suit, a purple shirt, a green tie and white shoes. It looked bad ASS.

And what’s cool is, any other person in the world probably would have looked like a total putz standing on the pulpit looking like that. But Avery pulled it off. Because he knows how to exert his distinctiveness. He knows how to keep it real. And his truthful self-expression inspires other people to do the same. That’s honesty. What is preventing you from living your truth? Why not try it out tonight? Whose permission are you waiting for?

4. Honesty IS authenticity. There’s a word that’s rapidly approaching the end of its product life cycle. Every time I go to Borders and see (yet) another uninspired book on leadership with the word authenticity in the title, I want to pull it off the shelf and use the dust jacket to slice off my pinky toe. Vlargh.

That’s what’s cool about branding your honesty. It’s not some cliché you smear all over your website. You don’t have to try to be honest.

You just are.
You just do it.
You just tell the truth.
You just honor and respect yours and other people’s truths.

Do that, and you WILL be perceived as authentic. What barriers to authenticity are preventing you from being as successful as you could be? How could regular expressions of honesty annihilate them? And if they did, how much (more) money could you be making?

5. Refine your truthfulness. Take a minute to imagine what it would feel like to live from a place of complete, personal truth. Literally visualize how your daily life would be different.

Phone calls. Emails. Conversations. Meetings. Trips to the grocery store. Your intramural softball team.

Think about what would happen if that kind of honesty permeated every nook and cranny of your life.

Think about what would happen if that kind of honesty spilled over and trickled onto other people’s lives.

Then, think about what you would have to change TODAY to move one step closer to that reality. What is preventing you from living your truth? Why haven’t you given it the finger and told it to sod off yet? Wouldn’t that feel great?

6. Reliability implies honesty. Brands are expectations. Shortcuts. Which means it’s your job to prove customers right. To confirm their suspicions about the value you deliver and the values you stand for – namely, honesty. It also means you need to be (somewhat) predicable. In person. Via email. On the phone. Everywhere.

So, try this: In your office, post a bunch of sticky notes that read, “Is what I’m doing RIGHT NOW consistent with the honesty of our brand?” That should paint you and your coworkers into a good corner. (But first, read my post on how to become a Sticky Note Superstar.) What is the truth at this particular moment? How are you using that to increase your emotional reliability? And what system could you put in place to keep yourself visually accountable?

7. Reinforce brand moments. Any time you do or say something consistent with your brand’s honesty, tell people. For example, if you email a prospect and say, “Well, my consulting fees are available on my website,” don’t forget to punctuate that sentence with, “…because that’s the way I do business,” or “…because that’s what clients have come to expect of me.”

They’ll appreciate your integrity. And people respond to policies. Ultimately, consistency leads to familiarity. Familiarity leads to predictability. Predictability leads to trust. And trust reinforces honesty. How many brand moments will you experience today? Will you be ready to express your brand’s truths and values in a sufficiently beautiful way? And when you do, what will people’s reactions be?

8. Take truth serum. At your next Staff Training, make all your employees watch Liar, Liar. Then have a discussion about honesty. Start off by asking: What would happen if you were forced to go an ENTIRE workday without telling a lie? That’ll promote an interesting discussion!

Then, have each person make a list of ten lies they told yesterday. From the littlest white lie like, “Well, I’ve gotta get back to my cubicle, Dave,” to “Yes, Mr. Jackson, my manager tells me those cockroaches come free with your steak.” Another fun team building exercise!

Lastly, require each of your employees to take truth serum. Literally. Challenge them to go ONE DAY without telling a single lie. The results will be staggering. How many lies did YOU tell yesterday? How many of them required a second lie? Isn’t about time you started tellin the truth, Abe?

9. Choose truth over consistency. In the book The Tao of Inner Peace, Diane Draher puts it perfectly: “We must never let a cause, organization or a relationship so completely eclipse our lives that we forget who we are.”

Amen to that. As my mistakes have taught me, there comes a point where commitment can actually become a detriment. After all, what good is being committed if your commitment causes you to dishonor your Truth?

So, we need to be careful that psychological and social pressure doesn’t prevent us from making mistakes. Yes, constantly remind people of your commitment … BUT … let go of the need to do so for sole the purpose of strengthening your own position. Embrace your imperfect humanness! Honesty is more important. Choose truth over consistency. Are you terminally unique? Is your honesty perceived as being self-righteous? And are you really committed, or are you just trying to avoid cognitive dissonance?

TO SUMMARIZE: Be abnormally honest. Be microscopically truthful. Encourage truthful self-expression. Honesty IS authenticity. Refine your truthfulness. Reliability implies honesty. Reinforce brand moments. Take truth serum. Choose truth over consistency.

REMEMBER: People are tired of being lied to.

If you REALLY want to stick yourself out there, start by being honest.

It’s the greatest branding secret in the history of modern marketing.

LET ME ASK YA THIS...
How are you branding your honesty?

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For the list called, "6 Ways to Out Position Your Competition," send an email to me, and I'll send you the list for free!

* * * *
Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag
Author, Speaker, Coach, Entrepreneur
scott@hellomynameisscott.com

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