Aspiration vs Exaggeration
Consumers are skeptics. They see advertising and marketing as a sea of lies, and for good reason. They’ve been deceived too many times. Building a strong brand means managing consumers’ expectations, honestly and consistently. However, all too many try to be something they’re not, only to disappoint consumers with outlandish claims they couldn’t possibly live up to.
There is a difference between a brand having aspirations (setting a goal it aims to pursue and someday achieve) and over promising (making a claim it isn’t capable of backing up). Too many are guilty of the latter. Consider the photographic representation of fast food vs. reality or the underpowered car that slides across your TV screen at 100 miles per hour, “Professional Driver. Closed Course.”
Few brands are able to balance expressing their ambition and promising more than they can deliver. In their effort not to underwhelm people, some brands tend to exaggerate… and let’s face it, some brands are more honest than others.
The most effective live by a simple, singular idea, an ideology expressed from communications all the way to the product itself. They not only gain people’s trust and admiration, but they also gain their business as well.
Apple is an aspirational brand in that they praise the solutions, not themselves. However, their rise to becoming the world’s largest company may disqualify them from being “aspirational.” So, let’s consider some challenger brands.
Avis’ tagline “We Try Harder” is a brilliant example of stating an obvious and compelling reason to believe: of course the number two brand is going to try harder. Then there’s New Balance’s “Endorsed by No One,” which achieves a similar goal by shifting the focus from endorsements to a product known by runners to be beyond reproach. Domino’s Pizza went as far as to admit that their product was sub-par and promised to “…reinvent our pizza from the crust up.”
Everywhere you look, companies are claiming to be more than what they are and provide more value than they do. Consumers have had enough. In years past, they weren’t able to verify the claims companies made, so advertisers spun the truth. Today, we live in the information age where, within a few clicks, everyone has access to everything.
Building a brand means building a relationship. This requires a commitment to live by a predefined set of rules and principles. Those who see the relationship as transactional quickly find themselves chasing the market. Those who aim to deliver the most distinctive value find the market chasing them.
In the end, brand strategy is nothing more than a plan to provide the greatest value to the customer, because your brand is not what you claim, it is what consumers experience.