Similarly, what brands say is not nearly as important as what brands do, too.
Sure, as a company you can still pump out whatever message you want… but a good (or bad) deed will fly further and faster.
Not only that, it will probably compound or undo all of the good brand equity that was so carefully cultivated.
But here’s another way of looking at it. Has the digital age simply levelled the playing field?
Has it brought these once mighty brands, with their all powerful, all reaching, authoritative narrative down to the level of the rest of us peasants?
Now, we’re all sitting in the same sandbox. Now, we’re all judged by the same criteria. Down here, you don’t build a reputation on the things you say you’re going to do. You build it on what you actually do.
But maybe, just maybe, therein lies the opportunity for brands, I think.
It’s now more than ever about the actual experience that brands provide for people.
Put simply this means making good choices, and I don’t mean the ones that affect the bottom line. I mean the ones that put the interests of others above their own.
Here’s an example that stuck with me, from BNZ bank, in New Zealand.
They sponsored a rugby team. Their logo was on the team’s playing gear. One star player (Sonny Bill Williams) made what must have been a tough personal decision to reject having the bank logo on his collar, for religious reasons.
Now here is where BNZ could have followed the corporate rule book as they knew it. They had paid for the sponsorship, they could have complained. Or forced the issue. Or stabbed their index finger at the contract and flailed their arms about. Legally, it was their right for their logo to be visible on his shirt.
But they didn’t. Instead, they got creative.
They collaborated with Plunket — a charity that provides a range of free health services to children under the age of five — and pitched the idea of having Plunket’s logo instead.
Sonny Bill of course accepted.
Plunket got exposure beyond their means, and BNZ demonstrated empathy beyond our expectations.
Interestingly they probably got more media coverage for this one gesture than all the logos on all the collars in the world. And for all the right reasons.
Dear brands, more please.