On a recent Forbes Marketing Council on-line forum - the question came up:
"Besides 'authenticity' - what other traits should be part of a brand today?"
My response - 'caring'.
Real brands must authentically demonstrate that they truly care about something that really matters.
The environment (Patagonia).
Self esteem for women (Dove).
Impoverished children in developing countries (Tom's Shoes).
Care authentically and wholeheartedly for something and you will be on your way to establishing a stand out brand. And you don't have to be a big international brand to care. Anyone can do it....as long as it is authentic and you fully "live" whatever you care about.
I was struck by this the other day when my daughter Marshall sent me a screen shot from her mobile phone that she received just a couple of days after the vicious Saturday night terrorist bombing in Chelsea.
That's a brand that authentically cares...about their neighbors and about the people of their city.
Importantly, this message was delivered via digital geo-targeting, where a message is only transmitted to a very select and defined area. Marshall works in this area so she received this neighborhood only message via Facebook and LinkedIn.
This is important. Let's say, the ad was in The New York Times. That, to me, would be bordering on being 'brand exploitive' where sending out the message was more important to the company than the act itself.
No, I believe, this was sincere – a real caring gesture to the people whose world had just been rocked.
One other thing. Imagine what this gesture meant to the people who work at The Standard Hotel? The bellmen. The maids. The cooks. Think they walked to work the next day with just a little bit more pride?
And, to me, this says a lot about the people of The Standard Hotel. I want to associate with those types of people.
Should you proceed down this 'caring route' for your brand - and you must, if you want to build a true inspiring brand today - make absolutely certain that you don't make a half-hearted, hollow ‘caring’ gesture. Believe me – this will cause a lot more harm to a brand than good. As we all know, anyone can ‘say’ they care – in fact, most organizations do. It is only when you put the organization's significant, hard-earned dollars and real resources behind something that you truly care about that your brand becomes more powerful. Your brand goes from being transactional to transformative (Think Patagonia. Think Toms. Think The Standard Hotel)
Do something great. Build an authentic and caring brand.