As seen in APeeling November 2019
When brands and products try to hide their shortcomings—a flaw in their product, lack of ethical standards, tumultuous financial stability, or other challenges—it never works long term. If the company is already established, spinning the story might work for a while. That is, until someone calls the brand out on what they are doing, or they face a lawsuit—or worse, they are dragged through the news and their reputations are castrated by consumers who stand up against and boycott them. When the company isn’t established, consumers usually see right through the deceit. That is because they can either see how bold the claims are that are made by companies that do not have the history to back them, or they can see through the founder’s inability to be vulnerable and authentic when they are wearing masks, pretending that everything in their company is going perfectly. And instead of working with the brand or using the product, they avoid it outright.
CUSTOMERS DON’T WANT PERFECTION
Why doesn’t putting on a mask and portraying a facade of success work? Why do so many people outright avoid or condemn the brands and products that act as if everything is perfect?
The marketplace isn’t looking for perfection and brands are beginning to understand this. That is why smart companies are doing everything in their power to try to showcase their brands as being real. Brands are creating messaging that’s honest, vulnerable, and really connects with consumers. Rhett Power, author of The Entrepreneurs Book of Actions: Essential Daily Exercises and Habits for Becoming Wealthier, Smarter, and More Successful, wrote an article in Inc. Magazine titled “Trust is as Important as Price for Today's Consumer.” In the article, Rhett discusses how more than 73 percent of consumers consider transparency more important than price. He states that what consumers are most looking for are brands that they feel they can trust through education, setting up listening networks to make sure your voice is heard, and that they are owning up to their mistakes.
Cheryl Snapp Conner, who specializes in crisis PR at Snapp Conner PR, shared a story of one of her friends who runs one of the most successful technology companies in the United States. The CEO of the company normally discussed business on his outlets, yet he had been stricken with a huge personal tragedy; he lost his son to suicide. Instead of crawling into a hole (which he probably felt like doing), he made a brave decision to open up about what had happened. When he posted the story that shared his heart’s deepest feelings, along with what was in his mind, people began responding in droves. Their hearts went out to him. That was probably the most vulnerable moment of his life, but speaking from his heart and sharing that moment was truly the right thing to do.
Who is bigger, Warren Buffett or Geico? Who can you relate to more? Chances are, you may potentially find some affinity when you are thinking about Warren Buffett eating McDonalds and drinking Cherry Coca Cola. But when is the last time you thought, “I can totally relate to Geico. They completely get who I am as a consumer and they know exactly what I’m looking for!” Geico isn’t doing anything wrong per se, but they aren’t maximizing what they could do to create a deep level of camaraderie with their audience. If you’re like us and the people we talk to on a regular basis, that thought has never crossed your mind.
It’s not just Warren Buffett who stands out though. It’s people like Tony Robbins, Oprah, your favorite YouTube star, the industry expert you follow for insights on Twitter, and the salesperson at your favorite store that you have built a bond with. These are the people whose personal brands you resonate with, and whom you ultimately decide to trust or work with.
This philosophy doesn’t just involve the CEO of a company and public figures. Think about why so many brands like Netflix and Spotify want you to login to their platforms using your name. They want you to have a personalized experience when you are using their services. They do this by giving you your own custom username, allowing you to attach your own picture to your avatar, customizing their recommendations based off of other content you have already consumed, and making each individual’s profile unique to that singular user’s experience.
CREATING A RELATABLE BRAND
The goal is to create a brand that people can trust, can relate with, and what to go back to. That starts with vulnerability. Think about it, we don’t trust people who look perfect and act as if they have everything together. They put on an aura of unachievable success and it makes it that much harder to connect at a deep emotional level to the people who wear these masks.
Instead, look at person who is walking up on podium to receive an award. On their way up, they trip over themselves. The people watching laugh. But that trip and the laughs that come with it do something phenomenal; they humanize the award winner to no longer be a superior to us, but to be just like me and you. Research from the Annual Review of Neuroscience titled The Neural Basis of Empathy says that our brains are wired to grow a deeper affinity and liking to this person because they aren’t seen as better than us any longer, but that they become another human that we can connect with. The study states that empathy is based on the shared representations of painful or embarrassing moments of others, which allows people to see themselves in others. In other words, it drives human connection to a deeper level. It works so well that people have speculated whether or not Jennifer Lawrence has been faking her falls at award shows, since they become the most talked about incidents of the events.
This means is that in order to build a personal brand that people can trust, we can’t keep wearing our masks of success, happiness, or having everything together. Instead, the only way we can succeed is by taking the mask off, ditching the act, and exposing ourselves--our whole selves. We need to expose our stories, even the hardest ones, to help cultivate connection, compassion, and empathy.
Chances are, if you are anything like us, you have had secrets that you kept, whether they be legal issues like Ryan, or financial failures like myself, or even problems in your relationships with loved ones. When you hide your secrets, people can use them against you. If you were paying attention when Meg Whitman ran for governor of California, you can probably recall the outrage that was cast by the media and the public when we discovered that she did not disclose that she had employed an illegal immigrant, her housekeeper who she just happened to fire before running for governor, for nearly 10 years. Because she stood against illegal immigrants, when this news came out, she seemed heartless and mean. She tried to go on the defensive, but that skeleton in her closet cost her the entire election. If she was forthcoming about the incident, her $140 million investment into her campaign could have had an entirely different result.
The truth is that when you expose your secrets and your weakest vulnerabilities, something magical happens: you become untouchable. You develop an armor where the shortcomings in your life no longer become a hindrance that holds you back from achieving your dreams—but a foundation that you can stand on to hold your ground and become immune to attacks. Much like how Ryan was able to maintain his spot on the television show, Breakthrough The Crowd, you will also be able to show that you have owned up and grown from the events that once prohibited you from moving forward as well.
Let’s get the elephant out of the room shall we, Why am I including Ditch the Act in the same issue I am launching Pusher’s of the Possible?
The answer is...drumroll... It’s a good book and ties in to what APeeling is all about, Creating an appealing brand story.
Plus, the topic fits this issue of APeeling perfectly, wouldn’t you agree?
I wish I had helped them write and publish this book because it reflects what MarketAPeel does. Their story of going through the mudpit of life and finding their own unique way to success is the type of story I want to help tell. However, considering Leonard is a talented writer and Ryan has the skill to take it to the next level, these two hardly need my help marketing, promoting, constructing, or taking the time suck of writing off their plate. They’ve got this - in spades.
The book isn’t just their personal stories, it is filled with advice, tips, and exercises to help the reader create their own personal brand story. It is useful. How one tells their story is as important as telling it. I could tell you my story and leave you in tears from laughing so hard, or, I could tell you the same story and you would only feel pity for me. This book provides guidelines on how to tell the mudpit part of your story without sounding like the pity party victim of the world.
As these two explain and exemplify, what makes a story interesting is our ability to move beyond the mudpit of life. To learn from it, share those lessons, and allow others to relate to us. People feel connected to others when they see common threads in each other’s lives.
When I read the biographies of the economic leaders of our time, I cannot relate and I learn little from their story because I do not possess the superhuman qualities they claim to possess. How can I achieve even a fraction of their success?
I love how Leonard and Ryan teach about how to create a personal brand by sharing how they found the courage to define theirs beyond a mask of perfection.
This is why I loved the book, Ditch the Act, I could relate to them, I saw my own struggles in their stories, and their topic is in line with what I am passionate about. -- Creating a personal brand based on real stories.
I encourage you to buy the book, read it, and define your story. -- After you’ve read Pushers of the Possible of course