The Pursuit of Brand Truth Is The Real Work of Advertising Professionals

“The most powerful element in advertising is the truth.” -Bill Bernbach

Advertisers want to place their products and services in the best possible light. It’s a natural desire and a legitimate business concept. The problems start when brand managers think that “the best possible light” has anything at all to do with make-believe. It does not.

Unlike our peers in Hollywood, advertising professionals are tasked with finding and then polishing and elevating the truth, because that’s what helps sell soap, cars, vacations, and so on. Again, there’s a flimsy notion to overcome that people buy the promise in the brand, whether or not it’s true. No. People buy the brand promise once and if the product or service fails to live up to its promises, the brand is forever removed from the person’s consideration set.

Don’t lose my files, brah.

It all sounds so simple. Seek the truth in the product and show how it makes the product unique and hopefully better, then weave these insights into the ad campaign. But it’s not simple, because clients are often too close to the problem to solve it on their own. When the client is smart enough or lucky enough to hire a consultant who deals in brand truths, the client must also be open to hearing these truths and acting on them, or it’s all for nothing.

It Takes A Humanist to Connect

Advertising pros who lead their clients in the discovery of brand truth are warriors, poets, and philosophers with a keen sense for what moves people. These practitioners see the business for what it is—an exchange of ideas and goods among people.

There are also plenty of people who work in advertising who don’t know the first thing about what I am talking about here. For the hucksters and charlatans, there’s still plenty of money to be made in “applying lipstick to the pig.” Sad, but perpetually true.

Of course, no clients see themselves as the pig or in need of lipstick. All clients want the ads that they’re paying for to produce positive business results. The question is always how.

  • How do you appeal to people?
  • How and where do you connect with them?
  • And how do you keep them coming back for more?

To answer these elemental questions, it also means you need to know why people care enough to pause and listen?

How Do You Enter the Conversation?

How advertising is made is not well understood. This is why clients sometimes call up and ask for advertising outputs without understanding the need for strategic inputs first. No great advertising is ever made without first walking a mile in the customer’s shoes. It’s the only way to get on the customer’s page.

Take a look at your company’s messaging. The truth has a certain quality to it. It shines and it rings. Truth is like a river. It cuts through mountains of stone. The job for the agency and the client is to jump feet first into this river of brand truths and let the current carry you to the destination. Paddling against what customers truly think is a fast way to die.

If you feel that your brand’s messaging is off balance, and that there are no “ah-ha” moments in your advertising, set up a call with me. I’m happy to spend 45 minutes discussing the problems with you for free on an initial fact-finding call. If you want more help from there, we can cross that bridge, but first thing’s first.

Not ready to call yet? Perhaps you already have legions of fans waiting to buy from you. Take a bow if that’s you. If, on the other hand, you endure long periods of radio silence and erratic revenue cycles, take heart. These are challenges almost all businesses face. Thankfully, the challenges can be solved efficiently and affordably with a smart customer-focused plan.

UPDATE: There’s an earlier version of this article that I published on LinkedIn. @CommArts kindly pointed to it, significantly increasing the number of readers.

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