Brands are, therefore, things you must Trust. You build trust by truth.

Pants on Fire. Building Trust in a Brand.

To convey trust, early brands had personal names or amalgams of them. They stood for real people because you trusted real people (or you used to!) rather than ‘nameless’ companies.

Hershey, Arthur Andersen, Wal-Mart, Hewlett Packard, Dell, Brad’s Drink (now Pepsi Cola), Hertz, Pete’s Submarines (Subway), Dyson, Bacardi, Ben & Jerry’s, Bose, Cadbury, Nestle, Dodge, Birdseye, Campbell Soups, Danone, Kraft, Sara Lee, Dole, Heinz, Kellogg’s, Tupperware, Beecham’s, Gillette, Trump, Hoover and so it goes on and on.

By having a personal name, like the Grocer (Sainsbury) gave you confidence and trust and you’ll note how many of those we’ve listed are food brands. Because, people were/are more concerned about the provenance of the food they ate, first and foremost.

You cared about the food you ate, so personal brands initially evolved in food and drinks to reassure customers on that food provenance. To trust the food.

People didn’t care so much about where their clothes were made but maybe they do more so today? Rather, they cared more about who designed them, than how/where they were made.

You should know your supply chain intimately, because it has the potential to break brand trust.

So, brands with real people names, built trust easily and quickly, because you had “their” word on it. Added to that, a person as a founder of the brand, often became the Marketing salesperson, the face of the business – think Henry Ford, Branson – because it’s easier for people to trust a person.

“If it has my name on it, you don’t need to worry about it” was the inherent messaging. And powerful it was too, having the inventor or founders name over the door and in their Advertising.

You trusted the brand because you trusted a person. It was believable because it was tangible. Real people.

Ad Agencies followed suit building personal names – J Walter Thompson, Leo Burnett, Ogilvy, Ted Bates, Young & Rubicam, Saatchi & Saatchi, Foote Cone Belding, Wieden & Kennedy, Bartle Bogle Hegarty and so many others.

As Leo Burnett’s infamous goodbye speech (which all staffers used to have to watch) was called ‘Take my name off the door’ when a series of things happens. In other words, when the Agency deviated from his core values, change the name because he didn’t want to be associated with it.

So, he stood over his brand. He had values.

It was only in the 80’s onwards that a trend to develop more generic brand names happened, really to reflect on the wider group of people involved and indeed, as the founder died.

Equally too, when a brand name is that of a person, you can see the potential brand problem of the vagaries of that person, that human being.

So, if they say or do something controversially offensive, the brand suffers and that does happen. Once they become ‘well known’ from the Advertising, everything they do makes the news and their actions, can publicly can damage the brand. They are under the spotlight for even small deviations.

Hence brands moved into generic brand names or created ‘characters’ to stand for the brand which they could control. The Jolly Green Giant, The Marlboro Man, built trust too because they could create the ‘person’, the character, in their own design. They were sort of ‘people’ but not real and could be controlled because they were ‘created’.

Something that’s ideal in advertising creativity, using characters with stories that can interest your audience.

Generically named brands like IBM, Interpublic, Lintas, Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, Google, Instagram, Oracle, Zoom, Skype, Intel, Tesco and very much the vogue of today’s tech darlings but it makes Advertising life much more difficult and costly, to connect a generic meaningless name with customers, because you have to explain it.

What does it mean and what does it stand for? It replaces a person’s name with a more intangible name, but it does remove those human vagaries risks.

In other words, you have to explain what it does. What is IBM, what does it mean and what does it stand for? So, brands with contrived names take longer to promote and build customer relationships. They’re more functional than emotionally personal.

Now that said, you can build an intangible name like ‘Virgin’ around a person like Richard Branson and do both. A bit of a half-way house but it’s even harder work and riskier.

So, the important point is trust.  People want a brand (and they’ll pay more for it remember?) if they trust it.

Trust is key. You can only deliver what’s achievable and you can only promise what you can deliver. End of sermon.

Don’t fake it, don’t try, and say something you’re not.

This is in part related to that old, worn conversation about Advertising not being ‘truthful’ you’ll hear now and again. It’s not necessarily that Advertising is untruthful but rather, the brand promise might be. The Ads promised the brand would do something that actually it doesn’t.

It’s not the Advertising that’s lying, it’s that the brand expectations haven’t been met. Trust has been broken.

Separately, Brands too may fall away because they didn’t see a trend coming. Think Polaroid, Kodak, or Blockbuster.

However, if you advertise a product that says your hair will never fall out and it does, it’s a lie no matter what or how you communicate that message. Or this cream will reduce ageing when it doesn’t.

Advertising can convince a customer to buy it, but only once, because if it doesn’t work, they’ll never buy again. You must build trust and deliver on your promise.

And that’s important – don’t dream up a promise you can’t deliver on. Dream up a promise you can, which may even mean creating a new one. Create something that really does work.

For example, in today’s market, If you want to say that your business is environmentally ‘green’ because you think that will appeal to defined customers, make sure it is. Implement green strategies in the business, green targets, change machines to green and environmentally friendly practices – don’t just say it. Make the business green and prove it. Trust.

We bring that up because as we speak, a lot of companies are saying they’re onto climate change but are they doing it? We’re sceptical in the main anyway.

So, you must deliver on a promise and build truth, build trust. Make the intangible, tangible – in other words prove it. Show me that you really are ‘green’ and perhaps even more fundamentally, make it believable by proof. So, your proposition must be true and instantly believable.

“Never write an advertisement which you wouldn’t want your family to read. You wouldn’t tell lies to your own wife. Don’t tell them to mine.” David Ogilvy.

Early Brand Building worked better because they were clear and fundamental to the business.

The reason these early brands were named after people is of course because the people were mainly those who had the idea and who started the company. So, it was obvious.

Henry Ford developed cars, so they were called Fords. But they didn’t just ‘start’ a company, they started with a customer reason because they identified a want. A want that they thought was there and they took the risk to build it and to see if they were right. They saw a gap in the market and went through it.

As Henry Ford said, if he asked anyone for advice, they’d have told him to “build a faster horse”.

Ford thought differently, he thought cars were the future and instead of building a faster horse, he was prepared to take a risk because, he identified a reason, and an unfulfilled market want that would ultimately become, a need.

That want was that he thought every home would want to have a car (but despite popular belief, he didn’t invent the car instead, he simply saw the opportunity to develop the car through mass manufacturing, mass distribution and mass marketing). He was a marketer not an inventor.

Clearly he was right, but he could have been wrong, so he took a risk, the very meaning of entrepreneur (someone who takes a financial risk in the hope of a profit gain). And of course, those founders like Ford, were at their businesses Boardroom table, mostly at the head of it. So, when it came to how to sell or advertise their invention or their service, they were very clear as to what they were doing, who they were doing it for and why they were doing it.

The Marketing questions were already worked out first because they had thought it through in the very first place. He was obstinately sure of what Ford was about and he put his name to it.

Knowing your brand inside and out is therefore key. In what it can deliver and in what it can’t. Truth builds Trust.

Rolls Royce is an example.

In fact, it was Ogilvy who wrote this headline for Rolls 1959. He was conveying the luxury of it all, the quiet motoring experience. But when the Ad appeared, the Chief Engineer immediately said, “We must do something about that clock”. He knew the brand trust.

Brand Trust is often part of what is called ‘Brand Positioning’ – a clearly defined strategy as mentioned in the previous article above. What we’re doing, Why we’re doing it and Who we’re doing it for.

For example, Volvo is to safety; Ryanair is to low-cost flights.

Brand clarity means, let there be no confusion about what it’s all about.

You want safe cars? Volvo.

You want cheaper flights? Ryanair. Just look at the slogan clarity.

It is a fundamental flaw in business today, that no clear marketing positioning is a priority.

Build it and they’ll come is the thought, “build a better mousetrap” as they say. But they might not and they sure won’t, if they don’t know about it or clearly understand your messaging, your positioning. The job of Advertising.

So, it’s often thought of later (‘back engineering’ it’s called). The business is established first and then thinks how to market it. Whereas a brand or a business should have sales, marketing at the forefront first. …..And we’ll tell you why.

Firstly, because business products or services should be created with the customer need written in large letters.

You develop a business to satisfy a customer want or need, not on a whim.

It’s at the early stage that product innovation can be changed to deliver on a brand promise – it’s often too late afterwards.

Secondly, the philosophy of marketing/sales should dominate at the very beginning.

Let’s think promotion, price, delivery, and size, at the outset in order to give the customer, something they want and something they can buy. So, brand design, and manufacture, needs to be for the customer.

There’s little point developing a fab product that’s priced out of the market for example. Your new handmade vegan chocolate bar might be wonderful, but we’re not paying twice the market rate for it.

Think too about the ingredients and should it have less sugar for example? Or the packaging in paper rather than plastic? Or the taste? Or the colour? Rather than a more usual ‘there you go’, there’s the product and now go and market it marketing people! Which happens all too often.

We worked with the National Railway Irish Rail, who wanted to develop a new train from scratch on the Dublin to Belfast route for Businesspeople, because they rightly saw rising demand and the potential for a business premium. They identified a market gap for a better premium price – a brand – but they wanted to design a new, better product brand that businesspeople would pay more for and would persuade them to leave their flashy cars at home, and to take the train instead. A big ask.

So, we were asked to get involved at the train build stage, at the start.

At the outset and the fundamental question was, how we can design this train to satisfy the needs of businesspeople? So, the brand was developed from the ground up with the customer totally in mind.

What would businesspeople want on a Business train service? Reclining comfortable seats? Personal lighting? Wi-Fi? Privacy? Online booking of seat preferences? Folded up wider tables? Better Food and waiter services? What should the fabric, the carpets look like? And so on. What should it be called? What should the logo/colour scheme look like? What’s on the menu for healthy businesspeople?

The brand was started literally from the train build sketches and the service was built for a business brand premium from day one. They did it right, marketing was really at the earliest table and of course, the Ads were easy afterwards just show those benefits under a separate brand name ‘The Enterprise’ Train to distinguish it from other services. The Enterprise means Business.

Too often Marketing is seen by senior execs as a cost (‘those bloody marketing people, always looking for budget’) rather than an opportunity to sell. Or the business main executives have no understanding of its value. You need a Marketing person there from the outset. That brand voice needs to be corrected in businesses because branding thinking has to be early meshed into the business. Full stop.

Once you’re clear on a strategy, it has to be applied to everyone throughout the business and do that, Marketing has to have a sway in the Boardroom. A clear direction, a voice. When you’re down the pub and people ask you what your company does, you have to be able to answer it in a sentence. That’s not a high-faluting ‘Mission Statement’ where contrived wording ultimately says nothing. It’s a simple answer in a sentence.

“I work for Volvo and we make safe cars”. End of.

So often you ask Clients what their company does and they’re unclear. We kid you not. “We sell cars” is not an answer nor is “We’re great on Service”.

Ask any Client is their brand good on service? “Oh yes! Absolutely” comes the reply every single time but delve deeper. What do you mean by service? Is it that you answer the phone after 3 rings? Answer emails with an hour? What? And you’ll get blankness.

‘Service’ is intangible and you need to make it tangible, make it real. If you’re going to trade on better service, prove it.

A well-known Irish retail grocery called ‘Superquinn’ traded on premium service bringing a premium price. Run by Feargal Quinn whom we knew (and note his name in the brand) he delivered on service.

If you wanted your groceries brought to the car, they’d do that. Or if it was raining (a rare occurrence in Ireland….) he had someone cover you with an umbrella as you returned to your car. And so on. It was often you’d see him at the checkouts packing your groceries too. Not just to show leadership, but because he knew by talking to customers, would bring him more service ideas, customer feedback. He set up a shopper panel to give feedback. They didn’t like the sweets being positioned at the checkouts, because of kid pester power and so he removed them.

He knew his service brand and his customers and he proved it.

Marketing overcomes everything when it’s good, and to be good, it needs a real voice at the decision table. Feargal Quinn listened to Marketing. You must develop a clear brand platform that’s real and true. That doesn’t mean you can just make it up!

You can’t claim to be the low-cost seller if you’re not. You can’t claim your cars are made safer if they’re not. You can’t say you’re good on service if you’re not.

You might get away with it once, but after that one purchase, customers will fall away because they don’t trust you, they don’t believe you. You’ll be found out.

Remember, brands have to be trusted and deliver on the promise. With Social Media out and about, customers quickly tell others not to buy and you’ll be done.