I am going to break my self-imposed rule about not talking politics because I think that there are a couple of politicians that can illustrate some important principles about how you can enhance the authenticity of your brands. Donald Trump has shattered conventional wisdom with his high level of authenticity to a broad section of Americans (despite some fibbing and flip-flopping). Before Trump, who has yet to win any election, there was a total stunner here in Canada named Naheed Nenshi the mayor of Calgary. The anti-Trump. Nenshi could be thought of as the smartest kid in the class, who is also happy to help you with your homework. He is beloved in that city, proving that the people of Calgary don’t care if you are bookish, inexperienced and Muslim. They want good government and a mayor they can trust.
In Build Belief™ workshops we dig through brands to uncover Belief Assets that are available to a brand but are not being used effectively. Those same queries can help us understand how politicians like Trump and Nenshi develop remarkable credibility. Having people believe you is contextual and nuanced. It comes not just from what you do, but also who you are and what your motives are - in the eyes of your prospects.
Who are you?
A natural place to start is the Creation Narrative. Trump’s narrative is of a scrappy, successful, self-made, entrepreneur. It has been bolstered by his reality TV show; people believe what they witness for themselves. His publicized story is crafted to ignore his generational wealth and privilege and certainly his many business failures.
Nenshi’s is a story of gratitude and sacrifice. It is an archetypal immigrant story in which his parents emigrated from Tanzania while his mother was pregnant so he could be born in Canada. He has remarked, “Had my family been just on the other side of the lake in Africa we might have arrived as refugees.” He has seemingly devoted his life to public service in gratitude. That devotion included a Master’s degree in public policy at Harvard, a stint with McKinsey and consulting for the United Nations before he decided to run for mayor as an outsider.
What is your motive?
Many brands deliberately demonstrate shared values with their prospects as a way to convince their audience that they are worthy of trust and a deeper relationship. Some are credible (Chick-fil-A is closed on Sundays), some fail (Starbucks wanted to “talk about race”), many are in the middle (Bell: “let’s talk”). Regardless, people will consciously and unconsciously sense what the brand’s true motive is.
Trump is the “true outsider” whose motive is revolution to “make America great again”. What is critical in supporting his claim is his Belief Asset that he is “paying for his own campaign and not soliciting donations”. That is apparently how “entrepreneurs” do it and it allows him a measure of arrogance.
Nenshi’s motive is service. His archetype is that of a humble servant leader. It is most evident in his ongoing demonstrations of respect for his citizens (and others). He oozes respect and it is irresistible. It allows him to be shockingly frank because he is not haughty. A good example is how he spoke out on Stephen Harper’s anti-niqab election issue, “This is unbelievably dangerous stuff...this is disgusting” is how he described it to the media . Clearly not pulling punches but gaining credibility along the way.
What have you done?
We know that actions convince people but as marketers we sometimes become obsessed with copy far past its usefulness. Instead we need to showcase demonstrations of what our brands are about rather than explanations. When you message Nenshi, he often messages you back. To which some respond “what the heck are you doing responding to messages?” To which he always quips “what is more important than responding to citizens. This IS my job.” In 2013 when council voted in a 6% pay raise, Nenshi publicly gave $20 000 to charity... and on and on.
Trump’s great demonstration was, of course, his TV show. To bolster that he points to: the plane, the hotels and the personal wealth as proof of his leadership acumen “I always win. I am very smart”. It is anti-intellectual, real world “intelligence” that he peddles. He is combative in ways rarely seen before. He will “pay your legal bills” to encourage you “take action”. He acts out his traditional common sense promise when he chants “get ‘em out!” at speeches and dissenters are manhandled and tossed out. It all supports the belief that he is passionately committed to the mission far beyond the suave political rhetoric of most candidates.
These same queries and their extensions can be applied to brands for things and services. Frequently there are Belief Assets that have been overlooked or under-exploited. Only by asking and exploring are they uncovered, creating the opportunity to get consumer feedback and potentially be part of communication that Builds Belief™ and by extension, profitability.
Feel free to add your own insights or additions in the comments below.