One of the key components of our company’s branding mantra is the need for personal engagement through authentic messaging.  Our formula always stresses (1) specific and personal = loyal and (2) keep it real.  In other words, no brand is going to earn consumer attention and loyalty without delivering something of real value (content) that can get past what we like to call the extremely sensitive BS meter that exists in today’s marketplace.  In a recent post, Diane Verde Nieto (CEO of Clownfish, London) takes this point to an even more granular level that we should all take to heart.  It’s not just about “getting past” the BS meter.  It’s about doing so because your brand genuinely lives and breathes your brand message.  Diane points out that corporate social responsibility (“CSR”) efforts, in which brands incorporate their corporate causes into brand messaging, are a key route to building a loyal relationship with the target audience.

So, so true.  A great CSR effort can make a major difference in the eyes of the audience and the returned favor of loyalty.  But like all things, it has to be done correctly, which as the author points out, mean honestly.  In this market where the consumer wants and demand it all on their terms, honesty is paramount.  All brand content has to be authentic.  CSR driven content must be even more.

I was recently discussing with some colleagues the need for brands to do what Diane suggests, walk the walk at the core of their business.  That means, don’t just take on a cause and promote your “stuff” with it via window dressing.  Rather, prove to your audience that you are for real by making your CSR effort internal and sincere and not just for the public’s eyes only.  This means that from the ground up in the company, the CSR must be a 24/7 subtext of the business.  Employees, management, hell, even outside vendors have to live it.  Be this genuine and your content effort will do a lot more than get past the BS meter.  You will be believed, trusted—and remembered.

If good brand storytelling is about hitting emotional touchstones, I can’t think of a more emotional campaign than matching up brand CSR and the things that your target audience genuinely cares about.  Per the post, women do need soap—but they choose Dove because the brand (via their self-esteem, female oriented content efforts) literally cares about all of the other things that women care about in their daily lives.  Dove passes the sniff test because, in fact, they care….inside and out.

The opposite.  Look at some of the failures where brands have disingenously jumped on the healthy or green wagons.  When a brand’s message is no more than profit driven “fashion”, they can smell the rat. We won’t be fooled or green washed.

There are lots of “green” organizations for example.  But which of them deserve and earn our trust?  The ones you can believe because they have proven credibility.  Case in point?  We recently did a video celebrating the 40th Anniversary of Friends of the Earth.  It was a labor of love and we know the content is going to help this Godfather of environmental activism because they are, demonstrably, the unrelenting, uncompromising organization that was there before anyone would listen and is still in the thick of battle now that we know we’re killing the planet.  Our company (hence my vendor argument) lives this way.  It was a creative and passionate marriage that we hope continues for a long time.

It’s tough out there.  In a prior post we talked about the new “Simplifiers” who don’t want to be sold “stuff”, but rather, offered personal, important experiences.  So how does a brand differentiate itself and earn the attention it needs to prosper?  Don’t “sell”.  Present something people need / want  and place it organically in the context of the bigger picture.  Connect with the things in our every day lives that matter.  Do so honestly and with integrity.  It’s human nature.  Common cause, common experience equals community.  I don’t want to emotionally connect with soap, but I might with the soap community that cares.