February 11, 2019

The Most Powerful Brand Attribute: Confidence

By David Saxe

You know that person in the office that speaks often in meetings, but what they say and even the way they speak is completely dependent upon who else is in the meeting? They’re a wet noodle–always talking but never saying anything. These folks are obnoxious, but for a brand, this quality is a death sentence.Brands that seem fake–like we can’t believe a word they tell us–usually are struggling with some sort of insecurity. We’ll typically say they’re being “inauthentic”, but I think “insecure” is a more accurate term.

The ultimate goal of any brand, and sales organization for that matter, should be confidence.

Let’s start with the path to get there – it’s actually linear:

1. Simplicity. Your brand commitment should be, like, a sentence–or even just part of a sentence. Once you know it, burn the ships. I don’t care what user data says, which way cultural pressure swings or what your new years resolutions are. A complicated brand with 17 “pillars” and 50 pages of messaging guidelines (or worse, one that gets updated every 6 months) make the the next two impossible.

2. Authenticity. When it’s simple, it’s easy for your people to wrap their minds around it and get behind it. When your people get behind it, it’s real. There’s truly nothing worse that pretending to be someone you’re not. And when you’re pretending to be someone you’re not, it’s impossible to operate with…

3. Confidence. A confident brand isn’t insecure. And one of the most difficult attributes to interact with on a human level is insecurity. Can I really believe what you’re saying when you’re operating out of insecurity? Is it valuable for me or are you being manipulative?

Think about the number of brands right now that are desperately trying to convince us that they exist for social good. This is great, but it’s also saturated–and total BS. The brands that truly operate this way will be the ones that will thrive because they’re just telling the story of who they already are – whether it’s two employees serving someone in need with no one else around or a story that turns into a Super Bowl spot.

Confident brands don’t sell…they just inform.

Or better yet, look at Zappos or Nordstrom or Chick-fil-a. All we know is that they’re unabashedly committed to customer service. It was a simple commitment that ANY organization could make. But these guys committed before it was a trend, got authentic buy-in internally and now the story tells itself. Their people will tell you that it’s real. Everyone else is scrambling, out of imitation and insecurity, to convince us that they’re committed too, but we’re not idiots. It reads like they went to a Zappos conference and came back saying, “we should do THAT.” We don’t buy it, and we shouldn’t.

One more example, and I’m out of your hair. I’m a big Starbucks guy. As in, I’m there every day. Sit at one long enough and you’ll overhear a sales pitch. Most of them involve one person sketching something out on a piece of paper or opening up a tri-fold in front of the other person. Cringeworthy stuff where you have to fight off the temptation to stage a aversion to help the customer get outta there. The goal is to get a “yes” from the person on the other side of the table. And the customer is stressed because their wheels are turning a million miles a minute with questions like, “can I trust this person?” This dynamic emerges when we sell desperate. When we get insecure, we get manipulative. Untrustworthy. Confidence changes the equation entirely. No longer does the salesperson ask, “how can I convince this person to say ‘yes’?” But rather, “how can I clearly and concisely communicate who we are and who we are not to help them make an informed decision?”

Brands can be wet noodles too, and those aren’t the ones we connect with, much less evangelize for. A confident brand is an impactful brand. Let us know your thoughts.