Posted by: thewritethingdotbiz | January 14, 2011

Integrity and your “shadow brand”

Do you deliver on the promise of your brand?

If you are an auto mechanic and your brand is all about reliability and timeliness, are you delivering those results? Or do your customers hear how great you are, only to find themselves adding a few extra days to their rental car fee until you finish? If you are unable or unwilling to deliver on the message of your brand, change your message to something you can actually deliver. Better yet, deliver the goods. The world really needs that.

Beware your shadow brand…

Be aware of your shadow brand. Every brand has a shadow:

  • The giant mortgage lender vaunting its commitment to making the “American dream of home ownership” to the masses got so greedy that its lending practices led many people to lose  their homes, and by extension, their sense of safety and belonging in the world. (I used to work for that lender. I saw that shadow brand as it was being built.)
  • The self-righteous political leader is caught in a corruption scandal. The “family values” politician who campaigned against gay rights is himself outed.
  • The leading news agency with the reputation for exposing the misdeeds of politicians is shown to engage in criminal activities to “get the scoop.”

The shadow brand is that thing you said you would never be. The bad news is that your shadow brand will show up and compete with your “real” brand if you’re not careful. The good news is that by naming and calling out your shadow brand, you can keep it in check.

How do you do this?

You can have fun with it. Design a logo (and even a mock name, based on your company name) that reflects the areas where you might let your customers down. It may look a lot like your brand but be “off” in subtle ways (the mighty block letters have cracks in them), or you could be much less subtle (Seigfried’s Pet Grooming might have a logo with a sad dog with its tail between its legs). Create a slogan that your competition would give you, were they to criticize you.

Just be careful where and when you display it.


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