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How to make sure your brand talk matches your brand truth, so you end up inspiring rather than disappointing people.

“Every man I knew went to bed with Gilda… and woke up with me.”
– Rita Hayworth

Rita Hayworth was one the biggest stars of the 1940s, so most of us didn’t experience her fame first hand. But she was a megastar at a time when that really meant something.
She probably didn’t realize it when she was quoted, but she was making a heck of branding point. If your brand talk doesn’t match your brand truth, you’re in for a world of hurt.
Think about your brand. What is its truth? Do you know? A brand’s truth and purpose can be extremely elusive, poorly articulated or ignored on the sidelines as well-meant tactical campaigns often over-promise or misdirect for short term gains. That’s a critical problem.

Here are five ways to make your brand talk match your brand truth:

  1. Do the work to define your brand’s truth
    This may take some outside help because seeing yourself clearly isn’t always easy or accurate. Dive into a deep immersion of the who, what and why of your positioning and offering to uncover the truth, not just one perspective on it.
  2. Establish that truth
    Get the people who helped you uncover your truth to build a robust, engaging and specific brand guide. As with any communications, the truth of your brand and how it is relevant with everyone, internally and externally, has to be articulated in a way that guides, inspires and empowers them to make it their own.
  3. Employ brand filters in your daily brand story moments
    This stuff can’t be hypothetical or dismissed as just another clever, pretty campaign. It has to be practical and useful every time an opportunity presents itself to tell your brand story truth.
  4. Give it regular wellness check-ups
    This isn’t about policing and compliance. It’s about making the most of your intellectual property. Your brand truth is one of your most valuable assets, so do reviews of how it’s being used, give honest, motivational feedback, and provide training where necessary.
  5. Give it room to grow
    Have the courage to allow your brand truth to organically evolve along with your brand’s realities and innovations, your customers’ wants and needs, as well as the changing conditions of the ecosystem you operate in, which is the context for your brand truth.

For Rita Hayworth, her simple, brutal brand truth looks like this. She was born Margarita Carmen Cansino in Brooklyn, NY. Back in the Forties, everyone without a snappy, English-sounding name was expected to use a stage name, often picked by the publicity department. Rita was short for Margarita. Hayworth was her mother’s maiden name.
Her most famous role was the title character in the film, Gilda. And the point I think Rita Hayworth was trying to make with her famous quote, is that there was a brand mythology around who she was, based on the unrealistic and untenable depiction of Rita as Gilda. Anyone anticipating Gilda was always going to be disappointed, no matter how fabulous Rita was.
When you think about branding, think about your company’s truth. How you can best capture it, define it, articulate it and caretake it. And doing all this in a way that makes people want to work with you, buy from you, refer others to you and maintain a shared purpose that makes each of them feel more of who they want to be. That’s the stuff of great branding.

By Len Jacobson

Len is a motivator of meaningful dialog for clients. A frequent speaker on the power of story, Len shares insights on making brand stories real—from daily connections between colleagues, and how they share their purpose and passion with the world around them, to the way individuals and brands connect, engage, and build thriving brand communities.

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