I’ve got some advice for you.
It’s not new. It’s been around for decades — but it’s the key to building your brand.
Here goes: Be real. Be authentic. Be human.
Simple, right? Absolutely. But you’d be surprised how many brands are reluctant to be themselves.
But here’s the thing — everything has been commoditized. Being authentic, being real — it’s the only way to truly differentiate.
Whether you sell to enterprise accounts, you’re in healthcare or work at a SaaS startup, we’re all facing more competition in the market than ever before.
At the end of the day, though, we’re all still trying to connect with other human beings.
And this is exactly why you have to build your brand. It’s the only way to cut through the noise today.
And the best way to build your brand is by being you.
Honesty Leads to Trust
My wife and I were out to eat a while back and our waiter really surprised us.
He actually told us something on the menu wasn’t good.
It caught us off guard, but do you know the next thing we did?
We asked him what we should get instead.
His honesty made us trust him so much more, so we were all ears when he offered his next recommendation. And this lead to an even better dinner.
As marketers, sometimes we forget that showing our flaws can actually instill trust in our audience and lead to a much better customer experience.
Creating a Damaging Admission
Like I said before, the idea of being honest and authentic isn’t a new concept in marketing and building a brand.
One of my favorite examples of this is an ad that is probably more than 50 years old from the car rental company, Avis.
At the time, Avis was getting clobbered by Hertz.
They knew that they weren’t first in the market. Everyone knew it.
Instead of trying to fight that reality, Avis embraced and admitted where they weren’t winning and used it to their advantage.
The title of the ad was, When you’re only No. 2, you try harder. Or else.
Instead of trying to pretend to be Number 1, they embraced their underdog role and shared their real experiences with their customers.
They talked about how they had to try harder to keep up with the “big fish,” which included the not-so-glamorous work of checking gas tanks, batteries and windshield wipers–even always emptying ashtrays.
They had to work hard to earn repeat customers.
The genius of this ad is that Avis embraced their reality and shared it.
When they did, they showed customers how the realities of their company and their brand could actually benefit them.
They didn’t invent some new concept or try to build their brand to be like Hertz.
They shared who they were.
Dan Kennedy (I really recommend picking up his book: The Ultimate Sales Letter) calls this creating a damaging admission.
Just like that waiter gained our trust and created a better experience for us, you can do the same with your marketing strategy and building your brand.
You share your reality, including your flaws, and you build trust.
And you build an authentic brand, too.
Writing Fiction Is Hard
Yvon Chouinard, the founder of Patagonia, talked about building a real brand this way:
“Our branding efforts are simple: tell people who we are. We don’t have to create a fictional character like the Marlboro Man or a fake responsible caring campaign like Chevron’s “we agree” advertising. Writing fiction is so much more difficult than nonfiction.” – Excerpt from Let My People Go Surfing
We’re trying to do the same thing here at Drift. As we think about building our brand, we’re not waking up trying to come up with who we are.
Our brand is just who we are already.
This is part of the reason we’re so fired up about two forms of content right now:
Audio & video.
These formats just make it so much easier to share the real us.
If you listen to me on Seeking Wisdom or stop by the Drift office, you’ll meet the same person.
If you take advantage of all the opportunities you have, from your web copy to everything around your brand, to just share who you are, you will build a brand and grow your business.
How To Be Real
So, how can you use authenticity and even damaging admissions to build your brand?
Hint: It doesn’t require hiring a 6-figure agency.
You can start doing it today.
Take a line from Avis’s playbook and address your flaws, as an individual and as a company. Do it openly and watch the reactions.
Use audio & video.
Again, we love both formats because you can’t fake it. Recording a podcast or hitting record on a video means you have to really be you.
They are both great for sharing the real you.
I’ll leave you with a real specific example from right here at the Drift office:
We were getting some feedback that our pricing page was a little tough for some people to understand.
So, we shot a video with the guy who owns pricing here at Drift: Will, our VP of Ops.
We didn’t put a ton of production value into the video, but it has been one of our best pieces of content.
The guy who should be able to explain our pricing just telling our customers what the plans are all about–with the camera rolling.
Just remember: Be real. Be authentic. Be human.
You’ll grow your brand and your business.