08.17.2021

The Truth Is Out In There

Building On A Brand’s Inherent Truth

By: Planet Propaganda

Every successful brand is built on an Inherent Truth – something that’s both real to the company and relevant to buyers. It needs to be rare, too, or it won’t stand out among the competition.

Every brand marketer’s gone through it. The Brand Discovery Process. It’s an undertaking that goes by many names:

The “What is it we stand for again?” Process

The “Let’s see what the new guy comes up with” Process

The “Our agency says they need eight months to divine our essence before we can start on the campaign that airs in eight weeks” Process

The “Dear God, Never Again” Process

We’ve all been there. Intentions are good. The need is real. All hands are held and all kumba’s are ya’d. But still. Somewhere along the line things can go astray. Although the initial steps of the process feel productive (the stakeholder interviews, the customer surveys, and so on), the end results can feel uninspired…or even worse, random. As in: oh, I see, we’re repositioning ourselves as the sassy and carefree brand of compound miter saws.

In our experience, the problems are often due to a lack of consensus: between founder and CMO, between marketing and sales, between old guard and new. The old guard might be looking to get back to some earlier form of the brand. Meanwhile the new guard wants something zippy to appeal to Generation du jour. With no common ground in sight, recommendations get muddy. Going all-in on one direction would only satisfy some of the decision makers, while frankenbranding a compromise would satisfy none. Instead of a new platform for the brand, all that comes of the process is a fresh coat of paint. New deodorant over old.

Once the “final reveal” is revealed (and the tentative golf clap subsides), the overstuffed presentation gets thrown on a server where it’s archived and then forgotten until someone decides to exhume it as part of the next brand discovery process. Old brand decks are typically reviewed with a wrinkling of noses: all those layers of deodorant don’t age well.

But that brand truth is still there – somewhere inside the tangle, waiting to be rediscovered. Finding it isn’t easy; it takes hard work. But the journey doesn’t have to be as convoluted as past experience might suggest.

How Two Rights Make a Right

So where’s the rub, between the old guard and the new? As it turns out, more often than not, they’re both right.

The first place we look when we begin evolving a brand is to the past. If it’s survived more than a few years it’s doing (or at least at some point, it did) something right. There’s a reason a company was started. There was a vision, whether articulated or not, that buyers came to believe in. Those principles are easily forgotten over the years, crowded out by more short-sighted urgencies. “Let’s get back to who we were,” says the old guard. It’s real.

The new guard is looking forward. They know brands need to be reinvigorated for the modern consumer. Any brand that fails to continually replenish the customer pipeline isn’t long for this world. “Let’s move to where we need to be,” says the new guard. Let’s be relevant.

Yup. Both are correct.

The Inherent Truth: Real, Relevant and Rare

Every successful brand is built on an Inherent Truth – something that’s both real to the company and relevant to buyers. It needs to be rare, too, or it won’t stand out among the competition. In our Simplify >< Amplify process, it’s a brand’s Inherent Truth that serves as the critical lynchpin between the two halves.

When we started working with Jersey Mike’s Subs, we began by helping them uncover their Inherent Truth: A Sub Above. It’s Real in that it reflects the quality of their product as well as their commitment to making a difference through their philanthropic efforts. It’s Relevant to (especially) Millennials and Gen Z because they’re actively seeking better meal options. And finally, it’s Rare because it positions Jersey Mike’s at the previously unoccupied top of sub mountain. Jersey Mike’s whole-heartedly embraced A Sub Above and used it as a measuring stick for all aspects of their business, from how they treat customers, employees, and community, to which tomatoes are worthy ingredients for A Sub Above. Following the rollout, they were named America’s Fastest Growing Restaurant Chain for five consecutive years.

A Sub Above isn’t something we concocted for our client. It’s not an aftermarket bolt-on. Rather, A Sub Above is who they’ve always been. Our job was to help them capture it and then convey it to the world as clearly and concisely as possible.

Every brand has an Inherent Truth. Some of them get dumped or desecrated over the years. Or more commonly, they were just never documented in a memorable, easily articulated (and therefore scaleable) way.

But that brand truth is still there – somewhere inside the tangle, waiting to be rediscovered. Finding it isn’t easy; it takes hard work. But the journey doesn’t have to be as convoluted as past experience might suggest. To that end, an objective and sure-handed outsider can go a long way to keeping the route to discovery on-track.

Again and again, we’ve seen that the strongest brands are the result of a simple, streamlined discovery process. Makes sense – the strongest brands are simple and streamlined themselves. No loose ends, no fine print, no hedging of bets. Just a crystal clear statement of purpose, position and point of view. “A Sub Above?” There’s no wiggle room: everything they do needs to be top-notch. That’s the holy grail, right? A clear and compelling brand that sets the bar? Indeed. Preferably without all the BS some folks try dragging you through to get there.

We’ve seen it work, again and again: Simplify your brand. Find your Inherent Truth. And then Amplify it in a way that can’t be ignored. A stake in the ground, a rallying cry, call it what you will. Brands and businesses can be entirely transformed by just a few short words. In the end, and largely without exception, the strongest brands are built on a singular inherent truth. The quicker and more clearly yours is identified, the sooner your business can start reaping the rewards.

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