Commentary

5 Signs Your Brand Needs Some Truth

Hearing the truth about oneself isn’t always easy for people or brands. Acting on it is impossible if it’s dismissed.

Brands have access to boatloads of truth from customers 24/7 on the web -- but some brands respond with a shrug, thinking, “haters gonna hate.”

Sometimes that’s true, but brand marketers cannot afford to dismiss customer dissatisfaction when competing for market share. Here are some signs that they must honestly take stock of the brands they manage.

Everyone in the company thinks the brand is exceptional. De-nial” isn’t just a river in Egypt. Nobody is as good as they think they are, and should never think nothing needs fixing, because someone online will let everyone know. Get out ahead and invest in social-listening tools and customer-complaint software to gather and analyze consumer sentiment.

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You no longer know your customer.Your customers are like the new neighbors. They seem happy -- but you don’t know them well enough to determine that.

Cultivate solid relationships on owned and un-owned media channels. When was the last time your customer service department was evaluated? Assess the feedback. Maybe people love the brand, but their interaction with brand representatives online or in-store was unsatisfactory.

Even a beloved brand like Apple can lose touch with its customers, as evidenced by a hilarious video shared on YouTube. This clip is from a foreign-language talk show in which a guest punctuates his anecdotes with frequent outbursts of laughter. Someone attached English subtitles to it to parody a hypothetical discussion inside the company about the need to use dongles on Macbooks where none were needed before.

You feel more fear than love. Be honest about your own emotions, because love and fear, fight or flight are fundamental to our central nervous systems. Think about how the brand excites you, and why it’s good. That’s love. Then enumerate all your fears for the brand, and think of improvements. Papa John’s, anyone? (It’s not every day that a founder whose name is part of the brand gets his company fired by its marketing agency.)

Fear won’t be enough. If you don’t already, begin using the brand yourself and figure out where it could improve. Ask friends who use it to provide feedback.

You treat the brand like a room in an SRO hotel. You might not own it, but it's your space and you are responsible for it, so treat it with respect and give it a good reality scrub every week.

Want to know where the dirt is? Look hard. Then look harder.

In the 1980s the NBA was guilty of this. Today it’s the scandal-plagued NFL. The league did little to protect players’ health when issues came to light, nor did it act fast enough to mitigate bad, off-the-field behavior among players. Some recent rule changes about on-field tackles and hits have been instituted to address the former problem, while the latter remains an ongoing issue.

You treat your brand like a limitless resource. In truth, it’s a non-renewable resource if customers are dissatisfied. At the start of each month, list three things that will make the brand shine brighter. Make sure it’s a reasonable, reality-based list and then use it as a framework for improvement.

Ideally, these assessments are an integrated, almost seamless part of brand marketers’ everyday practices. If they are not, they should be. And that’s the truth.

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