BRAND IS TRUTH: Lessons from the Market

Nicholas Jones Brand Coaching

Ritesh sells bananas.

It’s the truth.

They’re fresh, sweet and delicious. Here, try a little slice first. They arrive every day from his family farm on his own truck. His son, Arjan, helps at the stall when he’s not in school. He’s open for business until the bananas are sold.

There are no banana labeling, scanning or inventory controls. There are no banana sale signs, collaterals or Air miles. There is definitely no banana website, inbound marketing funnels or customer reviews. There is just 100% Brand.

And Brand is Truth

Perhaps the concept might be grossly oversimplified for the complex business world we trade in, but Ritesh is in a marketplace.

He’s a businessman, a vendor of fruit product: bananas. He has customers and competitors. He has good days and bad days. But he knows who he is, what he sells and he spends his day being that and doing that. It’s the truth. There’s nothing to be added or taken away at the end of his day (except, hopefully all the bananas).

His Brand is who he is and what he sells. You can shake his hand, joke with him and try a sample of his delicious bananas. His story, vision, mission, core values and operating principles are written all over him. It’s simply who he is. You could say he is the living expression of his business. He is his corporate culture.

He also consistently expresses his culture from the farm to the market stall, in the truck, with other vendors and… with his customers. What they experience when they interact with him is simply who he is and they love him for being his true self. There are lots of banana vendors at the market but there is only one Ritesh.

What Ritesh demonstrates (without “branding” himself) is that brand is when your truth is consistently expressed in your culture and experienced by your customers. It’s real. You can feel it and taste it. Brand isn’t pretending to be something bigger or trying to be something else. It just is.

And Brand is Truth in any market

You might be a financial analyst, a systems programmer, a startup founder, or possibly a fruit vendor (with a 50,000 sq ft automated distribution centre). Maybe you are consultant, a marketing director or even a business owner grappling with how to differentiate and dominate in a marketplace. My point is, you’re no different from Ritesh because Brand is Truth.

I speak from experience

I have travelled widely as a passion and for the experience. I have been to a lot of markets because that is where the freshest fruit is – from India to Kenya, from Peru to Paris. And every time, with almost every vendor, there was an authentic and fulfilling experience. There was always a human engagement, a real person wrapping real fruit in plastic or newspaper, or simply handing it over the stall. For that exchange, however short or even abrupt, I felt known, connected and valued.

The experience was true. As a customer, I realized that’s what I was really hungry for (and yes, the fruit too). The person-to-person exchange of culture and the soul-to-soul connection is what really filled me up. The experience was wide and it was deep. There was a true connection and it created trust. You could say a resonant frequency got created and my loyalty crystallized. I would go back to the same fruit vendor the next day, and the next day.

Consumer trust is founded on truth

There’s a real magic underneath it all and there’s no mystery. You want your brand to build loyalty in the marketplace, then make sure your truth is consistently expressed in your culture and experienced by your customers. That might sound strategic or it is just the truth.

Whether you are the lone tech startup founder bursting out with a pocketful of seed capital or you are an established business, climbing growth peak with lots of revenue rope, there is clearly a massive neurosis and perspective shift underway in the world of marketing and “branding”.

When you look at the complexity of our marketplace, the myriad media channels, digital strategies and sales tools exploding everywhere, it is just not the way it is in Ritesh’s world

We wrangle with expert strategies and we often conjure complex tactics and gameplans, to stand out and gain market share. What will fundamentally and reliably make the difference?

Let’s get back to basics…

Back to bananas: The lesson from Ritesh is not to lose yourself in your “branding” but make your brand your truth. Make the inside match the outside. Start with confronting where you’ve missed the mark, where the misalignment is.

Instead of selling bananas, maybe you’re selling genetically engineered skinny, yellow oranges. Or maybe you’ve lost the family farm and you’re a reseller with no roots spinning an expensive banana-shaped sign in the wind. Or somewhere along the way, you didn’t lose the farm but you forgot how to tell the story and your heart is just aching.

Start by telling the truth. We’re only human and we all know it.

And if you get stuck, I’m sure Ritesh has an online chat and a responsive call centre for his consulting division (or maybe he’ll just give you a big hug… and a banana).


About the Author

Nicholas Jones

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Nicholas Jones is a Corporate Shaman in Calgary, Alberta. He's an arc in the inner circle of a brand building agency, Brand is Truth, and part of a widening circle in the new sharing economy, called Communo. He works as a brand strategist and creative director, grounded in source mission and vision, core values, team culture and leadership, to ensure alignment, balance and integration wholly through brand expression.

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