June 12, 2019

Why Vulnerability is the Best Form of Branding

Pretend that brands are physical people, in the flesh. They can walk, talk, feel, see and do. You can interact with them, face-to-face. Let's call this physical representation of a brand ‘Brandon’.

Now let’s say that you meet Brandon at a party. You start talking to Brandon, exchanging information about your life, your hobbies, and your dreams. After 5 minutes, you realise that Brandon is embellishing themselves quite a bit. Brandon seems to have everything going for them, not a single weakness or trickle of self-doubt if their words are anything to go by. You think to yourself - “Is this person for real? Is their life honestly perfect, not a single thing bothering them, not a single challenge that they need to encounter?” You can sense that this person is not who they say they are, and as a result, you choose not to engage with them anymore.

Unfortunately, this is currently the case for many brands and has been the case for a long time. To avoid all risk of showcasing any weaknesses, many brands will spin all of their weaknesses into strengths, and try to save face as much as possible. They could try to provide testimonials and positive reviews to show that their own claims are legitimate and that they are faultless. Yet, let’s be real. No brand has zero challenges. All brands have challenges. All humans have challenges. So why ignore this universal fact of life when forming your branding strategy? Why sacrifice the truth? It is in this light that brands who acknowledge their weaknesses and limitations are brands that are truly genuine.

Brave brands that showcase true vulnerability with their audiences are likely to be respected, as they do not try to assert superiority, rather they actively attempt to create relatability with their consumers, and create equality between business and consumer.

Take US-based company ConBody - an online-based exercise program created by a man who had been released from prison not long before starting the company. This brand is championed by a man with a criminal record. It would be very easy to not trust anything this company says as a result of this single fact. However, ConBody does not shy away from this fact, rather they embrace it as a key part of their branding. This allows there to be no grey area in their appeal, and for consumers to enter a relationship with the brand fully knowing their faults, yet embracing the company for its differences.

Of course, it is forever important to highlight the positives of your brand to the wider public, as consumers won’t engage with your brand if they do not see the associated benefit. But consumers want to engage with brands that they can share a commonality of values. And brands that promote themselves as perfect entities with perfect solutions are frankly not relatable to the average person.

In an age where businesses can easily manipulate their social media profiles to falsify how admirable they really are, consumers are beginning to lose touch of reality. So it is worth considering how eating a slice of humble pie by publicly acknowledging your challenges and weaknesses could generate a deeper connection with your consumers and create a brand that is truly relatable.  

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